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14 January 2018, 02:56 | Devin Moran
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THAI police on Thursday said a 74-year-old Japanese man accused of a gang murder in Japan 15 years ago has been arrested in Thailand after pictures of his tattoos went viral on social media.
On Wednesday, Thai police arrested Shirai in Lopburi Province, where he is believed to have been in hiding for 13 years, on suspicion of overstaying his visa.
Japanese gang member Shigeharu Shirai displays his tattoos at a police station during a press conference in Lopburi, central Thailand. He fled Japan for Thailand in 2005.
Police said the attention of Japanese authorities was drawn after pictures of Yakuza tattoos covering Shirai's back went viral on social media.According to the Nation, a Facebook user who himself has colourful tattoos all over his body, posted photos of the Japenese man in August previous year.
Shirai had built a new life in Thailand and kept a "low profile", marrying a Thai woman and drifting into a seemingly peaceful retirement.
The post was shared more than 10,000 times, with some users identifying the former gang member.
However, much of the yakuza's earnings come from illicit activities including gambling, prostitution, loan sharking, protection rackets, drug trafficking, cyber hacking and white-collar crime.
Along with his tattoos, Shirai is also missing a little finger on his left hand - a common punishment for Yakuza members.
They were long tolerated as a necessary evil to keep order on the streets and getting things done quickly - however dubious the means. Unlike the Italian mafia or Chinese triads, Yakuza gangs aren't actually illegal, and sometimes the headquarters of each group is in full view of police.
Police said when he first moved to Thailand, the suspect had been living in hotels and friends' homes to avoid police tracking him, until he ran out of money and stayed in parks.
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.
According to Thai officials, Shirai is expected to be extradited to Japan.
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