Viral Tattoo Photos Lead to Arrest of Fugitive Yakuza Member

  • Viral Tattoo Photos Lead to Arrest of Fugitive Yakuza Member

Viral Tattoo Photos Lead to Arrest of Fugitive Yakuza Member

It was then that Japanese police made the link, and requested his arrest.

Japanese gang member Shigeharu Shirai displays his tattoos at a police station during a press conference in Lopburi.

Thai police have arrested a Japanese yakuza boss on the run for 15 years after pictures of his tattoos went viral on Facebook.

"When I grow old, I want to be like him".

The seemingly innocent images were shared more than 10,000 times and were spotted by police in Japan, who alerted their Thai counterparts.

His arrest brought an end to a multi-national manhunt between the Thai Investigation Bureau and the Japanese Interpol.

Shirai and Otobe were members of small rival factions affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest yakuza, or underworld, syndicate.

He had been lying low in Thailand, where he fled when Japanese authorities sought his arrest over his alleged involvement in shooting a gang rival in 2003.

Instead, he said that the victim had been bullied and there might have been plots within Yakuza subgroups to kill him.

Police General Wirachai Songmetta said Mr Shirai's Japanese associates paid visits to him two to three times a year, each time bearing cash gifts at around $397.

The photos also showed his missing little finger - something that was particularly interesting as Yakuza members sometimes slice off a fingertip to atone for an offence, mistake or breaching gangland code.

He was detained in Lopburi (which is north of Bangkok) for entering Thailand illegally, as he had no passport or visa.

The full body suit tattoo, which covers nearly the whole body such as Shirai's, is typical of the designs seen on members.

While the gangs themselves are not illegal, much of their earnings are gained illicitly through gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking and cyber-hacking.

Unlike the Italian Mafia or Chinese triads, yakuza are not illegal and each group has its own headquarters in full view of police.

Traditionally they have been tolerated as a necessary evil to keep order on the streets, although the authorities are now trying to reign in their criminal behaviour, banning banks from allowing gangsters to set up accounts.