These days the price of a standard civilian hit-job can run as high as $2 million. That’s not the price to get the job done — that’s the price if one of your underlings gets caught. The whole inflationary spiral started with one dumb yakuza stiffing McDonald’s on the price of a cheeseburger in Kyoto a few years ago.
In August of 2008, three months after countermeasures laws went into effect, the Yamaguchi-gumi boss found himself dealing with one of his low-ranking underling’s unpaid McDonald’s tab. That’s because Japan’s approach to its major organized crime groups (there are 22) is to regulate rather than ban. They exist in the open with office buildings, business cards, and even company songs. The yakuza are Crime Incorporated. And in Japan, the CEO has to take responsibility for the screw-ups under his command.A 38-year-old Yamaguchi-gumi member had ordered burger combo at a drive-through in Kyoto. He picked up his order, but then claimed since his meal had gotten wet in the rain, he owed nothing, and drove off clutching his burger and fries. (It’s unclear whether it was a plain hamburger or a cheeseburger, accounts vary, but it was definitely not a happy meal.) Several days later, a bill arrived at the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe from a very angry McDonald’s manager. The organization paid.
The cheeseburger compensation was just the start of a series of legal headaches for the Yamaguchi-gumi and other yakuza groups.