Category Archives: Organized Crime

Vatican Banker Fears for His Life: Gotti Tedeschi Could Turn Whistle-Blower


Ettore Gotti Tedeschi feared for his life when he was ousted as head of the Vatican bank after a vote of no confidence May 24. Three decades ago, another of “God’s bankers” was found hanging from a noose under Blackfriars Bridge in London. Tony Gentile, Reuters / Landov

The recently ousted head of the Vatican bank may have evidence that the organization is involved in money laundering—and now he’s afraid for his life.

He spent the last two years struggling endlessly against the Vatican’s powerful Vatican forces, whom he says blocked his every attempt at transparency.

Daily Beast | Jun 10, 2012

By Barbie Latza Nadeau

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi feared for his life when he was ousted as head of the Vatican bank after a vote of no confidence May 24.

The 67-year-old Italian was brought in by the pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in 2009 with a mandate to turn the troubled bank around and help “facilitate transparency” with an eye toward quashing rumors that the bank was a den of iniquity. The Vatican had hoped that through Gotti Tedeschi’s guidance, the tiny city-state could finally earn a coveted spot on the global Financial Action Task Force “white list” of states whose financial practices can be trusted.

In reality, Gotti Tedeschi says he found the bank’s record much worse than he could have imagined, and that he spent the last two years struggling endlessly against the Vatican’s powerful Vatican forces, whom he says blocked his every attempt at transparency. He stormed out of his final meeting of the board of the Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), even before they cast their no-confidence vote against him. The bank says it dismissed him due to lack of management skills and “progressively erratic personal behavior.” But Gotti Tedeschi says he was ousted because he got too close to the truth about the bank’s alleged shady dealings. He told a Reuters journalist moments after he was sacked, “I have paid the price for transparency.”

A week after his ouster, Gotti Tedeschi was in trouble again. His home in Piacenza and his offices in Milan were searched by Italian police, who say they were combing for evidence that he was an “informed witness” with regard to questionable business dealings of Italy’s state-run defense and aerospace firm Finmeccanica, whose president is his close pal. He has not been arrested, nor is he officially under investigation, and the police say the Finmeccanica inquiry is a separate affair not at all related to his problems with the Vatican bank. But in searching his property, investigators reportedly found a treasure trove that could link the Vatican to all sorts of shady dealings and underworld characters. And the Vatican top brass desperately want to get their hands on it, sternly warning Italian police that because the Vatican is a “sovereign nation” their documents are protected under immunity, even if they are found during a criminal probe outside its borders. “The Holy See is surprised and concerned at the recent events that Professor Gotti Tedeschi is involved with,” said a Vatican statement issued Friday. “We have faith that the prosecutors and Italian judicial system will respect our sovereignty—recognized internationally—with regard to these documents.”

What they are reportedly worried about is a secret dossier that Gotti Tedeschi told friends he compiled “just in case something happens to me.” Local press reports say the dossier includes 47 different binders with emails from the pope, letters from cardinals, and notes and reports from various meetings tied to Vatican bank business. He had reportedly planned to deliver the dossier directly to Pope Benedict XVI, presumably as a counterargument to his May 24 firing. The cache reportedly contains irrefutable evidence that could substantiate claims that the IOR is involved in money laundering and tax-evasive practices. There were documents that allegedly show financial transactions between the Vatican and a number of surprising characters, including politicians and known middlemen for mafia bosses. If true, it would give Italian authorities a rare opening to investigate the Vatican’s banking practices with names, account numbers, and transaction dates of dealings with financial entities outside the Vatican’s historically secretive jurisdiction.

In 2010, Gotti Tedeschi and IOR general manager Paolo Cipriani were placed under criminal investigation by authorities in Rome on suspicion of alleged money laundering for shady transactions between the Vatican’s bank accounts. More than €23 million was frozen and later released after the Vatican allegedly cleansed itself by passing anti-fraud legislation. Gotti Tedeschi’s dossier reportedly also included a list of enemies who might want to harm him, including Cipriani, who is still under criminal investigation in the Italian judicial system from the 2010 affair. The Italian police are taking the banker’s enemy list seriously and are considering providing him with police protection.

There is little doubt that Tedeschi has reason to be worried for his safety. Three decades ago, another of “God’s bankers,” Roberto Calvi, was found hanging from a noose under Blackfriars Bridge in London. His pockets were weighted down with bricks and cash. Calvi was not the head of the IOR like Gotti Tedeschi, but he was closely tied to the Vatican’s secret banking structure as head of Banco Ambrosiano, which went bankrupt at the time amid allegations of money laundering, mafia collusion, and generally questionable banking practices. The Vatican owned a small stake in the bank, but wielded great influence over Calvi, who knew the Vatican’s deepest financial secrets. The mystery into Calvi’s death has never been solved. First thought to be a suicide, evidence later pointed to murder. “There are some similarities between the situation of Gotti Tedeschi and what my family lived through during the trial of currency violations of 1981,” Roberto Calvi’s son Carlo told The Daily Beast. He says his father could not have defended himself without exposing the whole structure, and that’s what led to his demise. “While it is difficult for the public to appreciate this, there has always been an attitude of intolerance, isolation, and stubborness with those who set up this type of fiduciary relationship to evade regulations, and this makes them take risks that would be unimaginable to most.”

But neither the Vatican nor Gotti Tedeschi seemed to have learned anything from the scandal surrounding Calvi’s death. “I do not know Gotti Tedeschi,” he says. “But I do know that the very same account structure that existed at the time of my father has continued to be used by IOR in a similar fashion and has even increased disproportionally in size.”

For now, Gotti Tedeschi is cooperating with Italian authorities. According to prosecutor Giuseppe Pignatone, Tedeschi told prosecutors he was “held hostage because he wanted transparency, especially with regard to certain Vatican accounts. It all started when I asked to have information about accounts that were not in the church’s name.” Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess.

‘Pope’s Banker’ feared being killed by Mafia


Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. Photograph by: Getty Images

Daily Telegraph | Jun 8, 2012

The former head of the Vatican bank compiled a secret dossier of compromising information about the Holy See because he feared for his life, it was claimed Thursday.

In the latest twist in a scandal that has convulsed the papacy, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi reportedly gave copies of the documents to his closest confidantes and told them: “If I am killed, the reason for my death is in here. I’ve seen things in the Vatican that would frighten anyone.”

One of the documents was reportedly titled “internal enemies” and contained the names of senior clergy and powerful Italian politicians.

Other emails and letters related to “money of dubious provenance” being allegedly funnelled through the Vatican bank, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Gotti Tedeschi, 67, was appointed in 2009 but fired May 24, the day after the Pope’s butler was arrested on suspicion of stealing confidential letters and leaking them to journalists.

He was allegedly ousted by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, in a dispute over efforts to improve the transparency of the scandal-idden bank.

Gotti Tedeschi appeared to have compiled the dossier to defend himself against charges of incompetence, mismanagement and possible money-laundering

Gotti Tedeschi was so fearful for his safety that he hired body-guards and sought advice from a private investigation agency, the Italian media reported.

The claims evoked memories of one of the Vatican’s darkest chapters – the mysterious death in 1982 of Roberto Calvi, nick-named “God’s Banker,” who was president of Italy’s largest private bank, the Banco Ambrosiano.

After the failure of the bank, which had close links to the Vatican, Calvi was found hanged from scaffolding beneath Black-friars Bridge in London, amid suspicions that he had been murdered by mafia godfathers as punishment for losing money they had invested.

“Gotti Tedeschi was nick-named ‘The Pope’s Banker’ and he feared meeting the same end as ‘God’s Banker,’ ” said news-paper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

Missing girl buried in murdered mobster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties


Emanuela Orlandi, 15, went missing in Rome in 1983. Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother said it was time for the Vatican to come clean about what it knows of Emanuela’s disappearance

Daily Mail | May 22, 2012

By Nick Pisa

The Catholic Church’s leading exorcist priest has sensationally claimed a missing schoolgirl thought to be buried in a murdered gangster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties.

Father Gabriel Amorth, 85, who has carried out 70,000 exorcisms, spoke out as investigators continued to examine mobster Enrico De Pedis’s tomb in their hunt for Emanuela Orlandi.

Last week police and forensic experts broke into the grave after an anonymous phone call to a TV show said the truth about Emanuela’s 1983 disappearance would be ‘found there’.

And although bones not belonging to the mobster were recovered they have not yet been positively identified as hers.

However Father Amorth, in an interview with La Stampa newspaper, said: ‘This was a crime with a sexual motive.

‘It has already previously been stated by (deceased) monsignor Simeone Duca, an archivist at the Vatican, who was asked to recruit girls for parties with the help of the Vatican gendarmes.

‘I believe Emanuela ended up in this circle. I have never believed in the international theory (overseas kidnappers). I have motives to believe that this was just a case of sexual exploitation.

‘It led to the murder and then the hiding of her body. Also involved are diplomatic staff from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.’

Today there was no immediate response from the Vatican to Father Amorth’s claims.

But Vatican officials insisted they had always co-operated with the investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance – a claim that her brother has often disputed.

Father Amorth is a colourful figure who in the past has also denounced yoga and Harry Potter as the ‘work of the Devil’. He was appointed by the late Pope John Paul II as the Vatican’s chief exorcist.

It is not the first time Father Amorth has raised eyebrows with his forthright views – two years ago he said sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church were evidence ‘the Devil was at work in the Vatican.’

In 2006, Father Amorth, who was ordained a priest in 1954, gave an interview to Vatican Radio in which he said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Russian dictator Josef Stalin were possessed by the Devil.

According to secret Vatican documents recently released the then wartime Pope Pius XII attempted a ‘long distance exorcism’ of Hitler but it failed to have any effect.

Charismatic mobster De Pedis, leader of a murderous gang known as the Banda della Magliana, was gunned down aged just 38, by members of his outfit after they fell out.

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, in 1983, believe De Pedis is linked to her kidnap and the body of the Vatican employee’s daughter has never been found.

Last month the diocese of Rome, on orders from the Vatican, granted investigators permission to open up the tomb in the Sant’Apollinare basilica close to Piazza Navona in the centre of Rome.

At the time of his funeral there were raised eyebrows when despite his criminal past church chiefs allowed De Pedis to be buried in the crypt of Sant’Apollinare.

At the time it was said the burial was given the go ahead because prison chaplain Father Vergari told bishops that De Pedis had ‘repented while in jail and also done a lot of work for charity,’ including large donations to the Catholic Church.

De Pedis, whose name on the £12,000 tomb is spelt in diamonds, was buried in Sant’Apollinare church after he was gunned down in 1990 in the city’s famous Campo De Fiori.

He and his gang controlled the lucrative drug market in Rome and were also rumoured to have a ‘free hand’ because of their links with police and Italian secret service agents.

The disappearance of Orlandi reads like the roller coaster plot of a Dan Brown Da Vinci Code thriller with a touch of The Godfather thrown in for good measure.

Twelve years ago a skull was found in the confessional box of a Rome church and tests were carried out on it to see if it was Orlandi after a mystery tip off but they proved negative.

In 2008 Sabrina Minardi, De Pedis girlfriend at the time of Orlandi’s disappearance, sensationally claimed that now dead American monsignor Paul Marcinkus, the controversial chief of the Vatican bank, was behind the kidnap.

Monsignor Marcinkus used his status to avoid being questioned by police in the early 1980’s probing the collapse of a Banco Ambrosiano which the Vatican had invested heavily in.

The collapse was linked to the murder of Roberto Calvi dubbed God’s Banker because of the Vatican links and his body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982.

His pockets filled with cash and stones and it was originally recorded as a suicide but police believe he was murdered by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering operation.

At the same time as Minardi made her claim a mystery caller to a missing person’s programme on Italian TV said the riddle of Orlandi’s kidnap would be solved ‘if De Pedis tomb was opened’.

Following Minardi claims the Vatican took the unusual step of speaking publicly and dismissed her claims about American Monsignor Marcinkus, who died in Arizona four years ago.

JFK’s mistress assassinated by the CIA ‘because she knew too much about his assassination’


Murder: Ms Meyer, center, was shot dead by a Georgetown canal in October 1964, and while police said it was a would-be sexual assault that turned fatal, a new book- and her ex- claims she was assassinated by the CIA

Daily Mail | Apr 20, 2012

The suspicious death of one of President John F. Kennedy’s mistresses just months after his death has sparked numerous conspiracy theories.

The latest version posits that socialite Mary Pinchot Meyer, a beautiful divorcee who was close friends with the Kennedys and is widely known for having a lengthy affair with the playboy President, was shot in a cover-up operation by the CIA.

A new book alleges that, in her preoccupation with her lover’s assassination and ensuing personal investigation, she may have gotten so close to the ‘truth’ that the CIA found her to be a threat.

As a result, agency operatives staged a shooting to make it look like she died due to a sexual assault that turned violent.

Whether or not the theory is true, there are a number of questionable components to the story of the months leading up to her death on October 12, 1964.

Her ex-husband, Cord Meyer, was a CIA agent himself and the couple were card-carrying members of Georgetown’s starry social set, which included then-Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline.

The couples became close friends, along with Mary’s sister Antoinette (who went by Tony) and her husband Ben Bradlee, who was a bureau chief for Newsweek but later went on to be the managing editor of The Washington Post.

Mary Pinchot Meyer Book Suggests JFK Did LSD, Assassinated by CIA

Mary Pinchot Meyer, JFK Mistress, Assassinated By CIA, New Book Says

Another couple that they spent time with was Mary’s Vassar classmate Cicely d’Autremont and her husband James Angleton, who was the chief of the counter surveillance for the CIA.

A book by Peter Janney, called Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision of World Peace, the author claims that the the socialite would often bring marijuana and LSD to her trysts with the President.

During their conversations while on these hallucinogens, Ms Pinchot Meyer reportedly tried to appeal to Mr Kennedy’s pacifist nature and urged him to seek peaceful solutions to such worldwide crises like the Cold War and the Cuban missile crisis.

At the time, LSD was not illegal, and many, including Harvard professor Timothy Leary, advocated its use because they believed it helped people expand their knowledge base.

Mr Janney’s book is not the first to draw conclusions between Ms Pinchot Meyer’s friendship with Mr Leary and her intentions with her relationship with Mr Kennedy.

He goes on to say that she was later murdered by the CIA, who he believes organized the assassination of the President in an effort to stop him from preventing violent escalation that they wanted in the Cold War.

Though The Huffington Post thought that the book rested largely on substantial assumptions, these theories have been in existence for some time.

One question lies in the existence- and retrieval- of her diary that included writings about her affair with President Kennedy.

Within a day of her murder, Mr Bradlee went over to her home to find the diary and, though the door was locked, he found Mr Angleton.

The CIA spymaster said that he also was looking for the diary but claimed that it was because his wife- Ms Meyer’s friend- had asked him to.

The whereabouts of the diary today are uncertain.

Another clue erring on the side of the conspiracy is that while her ex-husband included a statement of support for the police investigation of her murder, his assistant supposedly said that it was a lie and he did truly believe it to be a standard ‘in house rub out’.

In an interview shortly before his death in 2001, Mr Meyer said that ‘the same sons of b****es that killed John F. Kennedy’ killed his ex-wife.

Police arrested Robert Crump, a man who was found near the scene of the crime, but had no connection to the murder weapon, which was never found, or any prior history with Ms Meyer.

Knights Templar Claim To Have Negotiated Drop in Food Prices

insightcrime.org | Apr 3, 2012

by  Christopher Looft

Mexico’s Knights Templar are allegedly behind a series of “narco-banners” claiming the group has helped lower food prices across the state of Michoacan, the latest in a series of ambitious public relations efforts by the criminal group.

According to news service Agencia Esquema, one banner read, in part, “The Knights Templar are not narcos, much less a criminal cartel, the Knights Templar are are a brotherhood of citizens who respect the constitution… in the past few days our brotherhood has invited the meat and tortilla vendors to lower their prices. An invitation accepted by our friends the merchants and recognized by the neediest people of our state. Keeping clear that for said action to occur there existed no pressure, nor blackmail, much less charging fees.”

“Narcomantas” were reported in the cities of Morelia, capital of Michoacan state, as well as Zitacuaro, Lazaro Cardenas, Uruapan, Apatzingan, Ocampo, and Tuxpan.
InSight Crime Analysis

This series of “narcomantas” follows the truce called by the Knights Templar in advance of the Pope’s visit to Guanajuato, a state neighboring Michoacan. The group, an offshoot of the Familia Michoacana, has, like its predecessor, cultivated a unique image through its use of banners and religious iconography, like the Roman-style helmets seized in late February.

This latest round of banners appears to be another cynical ploy to shore up public support. It seems unlikely that the Knights Templar were able to convince vendors to lower their prices without offering some kind of incentive, whether a threat or a bribe. Additionally, despite their claims otherwise, violence was not completely halted in their stronghold of Michoacan during the Pope’s visit to neighboring Guanajuato, calling into question the sincerity of their public announcements.

Afghan killings ‘were by team of US soldiers’

“In four rooms people were killed, children and women were killed, and then they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire; that one man cannot do.”

gulf-times.com | Mar 19, 2012

 


Afghan children look out of their temporary shelter at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul yesterday. Four hundred people are displaced daily in the Afghan conflict and face hunger and destitution, Amnesty International said. At least 30,000 displaced Afghans live in more than 30 camps in Kabul alone and are now enduring the worst winter the mountainous capital has seen in 17 years

Kabul – A shooting spree in Afghanistan that left 16 civilians dead a week ago was the work of a team of US soldiers, not an individual as has been reported, a member of the Afghan parliamentary investigative team said yesterday.

“After our investigations, we came to know that the killings were not carried out by one single soldier. More than a dozen soldiers went, killed the villagers and then burnt the bodies,” lawmaker Naheem Lalai Hameedzai claimed.

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But that account conflicts with statements from US officials, as well as with separate testimony from some people present during the attacks.

Hameedzai said the results of the probe by lawmakers has been presented to the legislature.

He also said the Afghan parliament had urged President Hamid Karzai to change the legal status of foreign soldiers deployed in the war-torn country.

The US has said one soldier carried out the dawn attack on a village in Panjwai district in Kandahar province. That soldier – identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38 – is now in US military custody.

“All the villagers that we talked to said there were 15 to 20 men (who) had conducted a night raid operation in several areas in the village,” said Hameedzai.

“One house where the incident took place is located in a village north of the base. The other two are in another village in the south of the base. There is at least 4kms between the base and the houses.”

Hameedzai also said some of the Afghan women who were killed were sexually assaulted, according to the findings.

“According to eyewitnesses, they could not confirm the rape. But the women’s clothes were torn,” he said.

However, Kandahar governor’s media office said local elders refuted the claim, saying the lawmaker was “lying for political gains.”

Meanwhile, the parliament in Kabul urged Karzai to revoke an agreement that protects foreign troops in the country from facing legal proceedings in Afghanistan.

“During our investigations, the Americans themselves told us that, because Afghanistan signed the military agreement, US soldiers could not be tried inside the country,” parliamentarian Naheem Lalai Hameedzai said.

“We have passed a resolution unanimously to dissolve the military contract, and we have sent the resolution to President Karzai. He has not signed on it yet,” Hameedzai said.

“After the Panjwai incident, we have decided that we do not need any such contracts any more,” he said.

How the Yakuza went nuclear


Suzuki Tomohiko’s book on the ties between the yakuza and the nuclear industry

What really went wrong at the Fukushima plant? One undercover reporter risked his life to find out

Telegraph | Feb 21, 2012

By Jake Adelstein

On March 11 2011, at 2:46pm, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan. The earthquake, followed by a colossal tsunami, devastated the nation, together killing over 10,000 people. The earthquake also triggered the start of a triple nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). Of the three reactors that melted down, one was nearly 40 years old and should have been decommissioned two decades ago. The cooling pipes, “the veins and arteries of the old nuclear reactors”, which circulated fluid to keep the core temperature down, ruptured.

Approximately 40 minutes after the shocks, the tsunami reached the power plant and knocked out the electrical systems. Japan’s Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa) had warned Tepco about safety violations and problems at the plant days before the earthquake; they’d been warned about the possibility of a tsunami hitting the plant for years.

The denials began almost immediately. “There has been no meltdown,” government spokesman Yukio Edano intoned in the days after March 11. “It was an unforeseeable disaster,” Tepco’s then president Masataka Shimizu chimed in. As we now know, the meltdown was already taking place. And the disaster was far from unforeseeable.

Tepco has long been a scandal-ridden company, caught time and time again covering up data on safety lapses at their power plants, or doctoring film footage which showed fissures in pipes. How was the company able to get away with such long-standing behaviour? According to an explosive book recently published in Japan, they owe it to what the author, Tomohiko Suzuki, calls “Japan’s nuclear mafia… A conglomeration of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, the shady nuclear industry, their lobbyists…” And at the centre of it all stands Japan’s actual mafia: the yakuza.

It might surprise the Western reader that gangsters are involved in Japan’s nuclear industry and even more that they would risk their lives in a nuclear crisis. But the yakuza roots in Japanese society are very deep. In fact, they were some of the first responders after the earthquake, providing food and supplies to the devastated area and patrolling the streets to make sure no looting occurred.

As the scale of the catastrophe at Fukushima became apparent, many workers fled the scene. To contain the nuclear meltdown, a handful of workers stayed behind, being exposed to large amounts of radiation: the so-called “Fukushima Fifty”. Among this heroic group, according to Suzuki, were several members of the yakuza.

The yakuza are not a secret society in Japan. The government tacitly recognises their existence, and they are classified, designated and regulated. Yakuza make their money from extortion, blackmail, construction, real estate, collection services, financial market manipulation, protection rackets, fraud and a labyrinth of front companies including labour dispatch services and private detective agencies. They do the work that no one else will do or find the workers for jobs no one wants.

“Almost all nuclear power plants that are built in Japan are built taking the risk that the workers may well be exposed to large amounts of radiation,” says Suzuki. “That they will get sick, they will die early, or they will die on the job. And the people bringing the workers to the plants and also doing the construction are often yakuza.” Suzuki says he’s met over 1,000 yakuza in his career as an investigative journalist and former editor of yakuza fanzines. For his book, The Yakuza and the Nuclear Industry, Suzuki went undercover at Fukushima to find first-hand evidence of the long-rumoured ties between the nuclear industry and the yakuza. First he documents how remarkably easy it was to become a nuclear worker at Fukushima after the meltdown. After signing up with a legitimate company providing labour, he entered the plant armed only with a wristwatch with a hidden camera. Working there over several months, he quickly found yakuza-supplied labour, and many former yakuza working on site themselves.

Suzuki discovered evidence of Tepco subcontractors paying yakuza front companies to obtain lucrative construction contracts; of money destined for construction work flying into yakuza accounts; and of politicians and media being paid to look the other way. More shocking, perhaps, were the conditions he says he found inside the plant.

His fellow workers, found Suzuki, were a motley crew of homeless, chronically unemployed Japanese men, former yakuza, debtors who owed money to the yakuza, and the mentally handicapped. Suzuki claims the regular employees at the plant were often given better radiation suits than the yakuza recruits. (Tepco has admitted that there was a shortage of equipment in the disaster’s early days.) The regular employees were allowed to pass through sophisticated radiation monitors while the temporary labourers were simply given hand rods to monitor their radiation exposure.

When Suzuki was working in the plant in August, he had to wear a full-body radiation protective suit and a gas mask that covered his entire face. The hot summer temperatures and the lack of breathability in the suits ensured that almost every day a worker would keel over with heat exhaustion and be carried out; they would invariably return to work the next day. Going to the bathroom was virtually impossible, so workers were simply told to “hold it”. According to Suzuki, the temperature monitors in the plant weren’t even working, and were ignored. Removing the mask during work was against the rules; no matter how thirsty workers became, they could not drink water. After an hour fixing pipes and doing other work, Suzuki says his body felt like it was enveloped in flames. Workers were not checked to see if they were coping, they were expected to report it to their supervisors. However, while Tepco officials on the ground told the workers not to risk injury, it seemed that anyone complaining of the working conditions or fatigue would be fired. Few took their allotted rest breaks.

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The Yakuza and the Nuclear Mafia

Those who reported feeling unwell were treated by Tepco doctors, nearly always with what Suzuki says was essentially cold medicine.The risk of radiation exposure was 100 per cent. The masks, if their filters were cleaned regularly, which they were not, could only remove 60 per cent of the radioactive particles in the air. Anonymous workers claimed that the filters themselves were ill-fitting; if they accidentally bumped their masks, radiation could easily get in. The workers’ dosimeter badges, meanwhile, used to measure an individual’s exposure to radiation, could be easily manipulated to give false readings. According to Suzuki, tricks like pinning a badge on backwards, or putting it in your sock, were commonplace. Regular workers were given dosimeters which would sound an alarm when radiation exceeded safe levels, but it made such a racket that, says Suzuki, “people just turned them off or over and kept working.”

The initial work, directly after a series of hydrogen explosions in March, was extremely dangerous. Radiation was reaching levels so high that the Japanese government raised the safety exposure levels and even ordered scientists to stop monitoring radiation levels in some areas of the plants. Tepco sent out word to their contractors to gather as many people as possible and to offer substantial wages. Yakuza recruited from all over Japan; the initial workers were paid 50,000 yen (£407) per day, but one dispatch company offered 200,000 yen (£1,627) per day.

Even then, recruits were hard to find. Officials in Fukushima reportedly told local businesses, “Bring us the living dead. People no one will miss.” The labour crunch was eased somewhat when the Japanese government and Tepco raised the “safe” radiation exposure levels at the plant from pre-earthquake levels of 130-180cpm (radiation exposure per minute) to 100,000cpm.

The work would be further subcontracted to the point where labourers were being sent from sixth-tier firms. A representative from one company told Suzuki of an agreement made with a Tepco subcontractor right after the accident: “Normally, to even enter the grounds of a nuclear power plant a nuclear radiation personal data management pocketbook is required. We were told that wasn’t necessary. We didn’t even have time to give the workers physical examinations before they were sent to the plant.”

A former yakuza boss tells me that his group has “always” been involved in recruiting labourers for the nuclear industry. “It’s dirty, dangerous work,” he says, “and the only people who will do it are homeless, yakuza, or people so badly in debt that they see no other way to pay it off.” Suzuki found people who’d been threatened into working at Fukushima, but others who’d volunteered. Why? “Of course, if it was a matter of dying today or tomorrow they wouldn’t work there,” he explains. “It’s because it could take 10 years or more for someone to possibly die of radiation excess. It’s like Russian roulette. If you owe enough money to the yakuza, working at a nuclear plant is a safer bet. Wouldn’t you rather take a chance at dying 10 years later than being stabbed to death now?” (Suzuki’s own feeling was that the effects of low-level radiation are still unknown and that, as a drinker and smoker, he’s probably no more likely to get cancer than he was before.)

A recent report in Japan’s Mainichi newspaper alleged that workers from southern Japan were brought to the plant in July on false pretences and told to get to work. Many had to enter dangerous radioactive buildings. One man was reportedly tasked with carrying 20kg kilogram sheets of lead from the bottom floor of a damaged reactor up to the sixth floor, where his Geiger counters went into the danger zone. One worker said, “When I tried to quit, the people employing me mentioned the name of a local yakuza group. I got the hint. If Tepco didn’t know what was going on, I believe they should have.” Former Tepco executives, workers, police officials, as well as investigative journalist, Katsunobu Onda, author of TEPCO: The Dark Empire, all agree: Tepco have always known they were working with the yakuza; they just didn’t care. However, the articles Suzuki wrote before his book was published, and my own work, helped create enough public outcry to force Tepco into action. On July 19, four months after the meltdowns, they announced that they would be cutting ties with organised crime.

“They asked the companies that have been working with them for years to send them papers showing they’d cut organised crime ties,” Suzuki says. “They followed up by taking a survey.” Tepco has not answered my own questions on their anti-organised crime initiative as of this date; they’ve previously called Suzuki’s claims “groundless”.

The situation at Fukushima is still dire. Number-two reactor continues to heat up, and appears to be out of control. Rolling blackouts are a regular occurrence. Nuclear reactors are being shut down, one by one, all over Japan. Meanwhile, there is talk that Tepco will be nationalised and its top executives are under investigation for criminal negligence, in relation to the 3/11 disaster. As for the yakuza, the police are beginning to investigate their front companies more closely. “Yakuza may be a plague on society,” says Suzuki, “but they don’t ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and irradiate the planet out of sheer greed and incompetence.” Suzuki says he’s had little trouble from the yakuza about his book’s allegations. He suspects this is because he showed they were prepared to risk their lives at Fukushima – he almost made them look good.