10 Apr 2011

Yakuza boss released from prison

10:39 am on 10 April 2011

The head of the biggest yakuza crime syndicate in Japan has been freed from prison in Toyko after serving almost six years.

Kenichi Shinoda, 69, was sentenced to prison for illegal gun possession in December 2005, shortly after taking over the Yamaguchi-gumi.

After his release, Shinoda returned to his home in the city of Kobe.

Late last year, his second-in-command, Kiyoshi Takayama, was arrested over extortion allegations.

The BBC reports yakuza groups are not illegal. Analysts say the gangs are involved in every area of criminal activity - from drug-running and prostitution to stock-market manipulation.

Before he went to prison, Shinoda is said to have greatly expanded the Yamaguchi-gumi's reach by sealing deals with other gangs.

He previously served time in prison for killing a rival with a samurai sword.