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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 August 2005, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Japan mafia gang 'names new head'
Japan's largest organised crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, is reported to have appointed a new head.

Sixty-three-year-old Kenichi Shinoda was named as the new leader during a ceremony in the western town of Kobe, the Kyodo news agency said.

The change is believed to be the first shift in the group for 16 years. Police could not confirm the report.

The Yamaguchi-gumi is thought to have some 40,000 members, almost half of Japan's total number of gangsters.

Gang members reportedly exchanged cups of sake during the handover to symbolise the creation of family bonds.

Kyodo reports that Mr Shinoda, who spent 13 years in jail for murdering a rival gang boss with a sword, will lead one of the most prominent crime syndicates in the country.

Although police have tried to crack down on the underworld gangs, Japan's yakuza - or mafia - remain among the world's richest, correspondents say.


SEE ALSO:
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20 Feb 04 |  Business
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17 May 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Japan
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