TOKYO -- An office of the U.S. Treasury Department has announced that it has slapped sanctions on two companies and four individuals associated with the Yamaguchi-gumi, one of Japan's largest yakuza crime syndicates.
As a result, Americans and U.S. businesses are prohibited from dealing with the designated persons.
This marks the first time for Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to target yakuza-owned companies, according to the announcement.
The office identified Yamaguchi-gumi as a transnational criminal organizations in 2011.
The OFAC has so far designated 21 individuals, five criminal syndicates, two subsidiary gangs and two companies with yakuza affiliations.
The two companies it slapped with sanctions are Yamaki and Toyo Shinyo Jitsugyo, which manage golf driving ranges and other properties. The companies also own and manage the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in the city of Kobe, the OFAC said.
The four individuals are Yamaguchi-gumi members who control the companies, the OFAC said.
Yamaguchi-gumi front companies engage in money laundering, drug trafficking and human trafficking, the OFAC said.
"We are ramping up pressure on this dangerous Japanese crime syndicate and local gang leaders," said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
"This has been going on for several years now, starting with the Obama administration," said Robert Whiting, an expert on the yakuza and author of "Tokyo Underworld."
"It's part of an effort to crack down on criminal money laundering and bring more money into the US Treasury," Whiting added.