Fugitive Yakuza Boss Arrested After Facebook Photos of His Tattoos Go Viral 

By Sidney Fussell on at

Thai police have arrested a member of the Japanese mafia they say has been on the run for 14 years. 74-year-old Shigeharu Shirai was detained in Lopburi, Thailand on Thursday. Authorities say Shirai fled Japan for Bangkok in 2005 while being investigated for the 2003 murder of a rival Yakuza member. Japanese police were alerted to Shirai’s location after pictures of his distinctive tattoos went viral on Facebook.

Last August, a Thai Facebook user, himself an apparent tattoo enthusiast, posted photos of Shirai as he sat on a park bench. Shirtless, Shirai’s intricate, colourful tattoos showing dragons, Japanese gods and warriors, brought a lot of attention to the post, which amassed nearly 15,000 shares.

But becoming an influencer wasn’t good news for Shirai. His unique tattoos were instantly recognisable to authorities. This style of body art has long been associated with the Japanese mafia.

Another of the pictures, focused on Shirai’s chest, showed him fanning himself, revealing he was missing his right pinky finger. This was another major indication of Yakuza ties. The grim practise of removing someone’s pinky finger is a form of penance among the group.

Thai authorities say Shirai admitted to being a Yakuza member but denied being involved in the murder. He will now be charged with immigration offences and deported to Japan. [BBC/The Times]

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