6 yakuza groups blamed for stealing $24m from ATMs
THE cyber theft of 1.8 billion yen (S$24 million) in May from ATMs at convenience stores across Japan is now confirmed to be the work of at least six of the country's yakuza syndicates, which had apparently struck with the help of an overseas hacking group, the Japanese media reported.
The syndicates are the Yamaguchi-gumi based in Kobe, the largest among the yakuza; its archrival Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi; the Inagawa in the Kanto region; Tokyo's Sumiyoshi; Kyushu's Dojin, and the Goda in Yamaguchi on the western end of Honshu.
The withdrawals are believed to be carried out mainly by lower-ranking members following instructions from seniors of their syndicates, reported the new24.jp news website.
Since August, at least 92 people have been arrested for the theft that occurred across 17 prefectures.
Police said forged ATM cards were used containing security information of depositors with the Bank of South Africa.
But their personal identification numbers (PINs) were disabled.
According to the suspects, withdrawals could be made simply by punching in any four-digit number.
It is believed that the PINs had been annulled when the bank's computer system was earlier hacked.
Apparently an overseas organisation was involved which mediated between the yakuza and the hackers, said the police.
Given that Japan's yakuza are aggressively territorial, it is not likely that they were aware the others were in the same plot .
The police first cracked the case on Aug 24, when a senior member and a lower-ranking one from the Sapporo group, an affiliate of the Yamaguchi-gumi, were arrested in Tokyo, reported the Yomiuri Shimbun.
They revealed that on May 15, they gathered several other members in Tokyo at around 4am.
Each was then given 10 forged credit cards and instructed to withdraw 100,000 yen with each card - the maximum limit for a single withdrawal.
Similar assemblies to carry out a swarm of withdrawals were found to have taken place also in Niigata prefecture and Saga prefecture.