Viral tattoo photos lead Thai police to arrest fugitive yakuza after 15 years in hiding

Photos: Facebook

A yakuza member suspected of murder, who had been in hiding for 15 years, was arrested yesterday in central Lopburi province, after photos of his intricate, full-body tattoos went viral in Thai social media.

Shigeharu Shirai, 74, was nabbed by combined Interpol, local and immigration police forces in the rural province yesterday while he was out to buy food. Local media reported that Shirai is a suspected upper member of Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza organization, and has been hiding in Thailand since 2005.

The man is wanted by Japanese authorities for the murder of a rival gang member in Tsu City, back in July 2003. His whereabouts remained unknown until recently, when Japanese authorities reportedly got a clue that Shirai was in Thailand and had a local wife from viral photos of his tattoos, Thai PBS reported. The news organization also said that me may be homeless and living in a park after running out of money.

“Uncle, you’re my idol. When I grow up, will I look like you?” wrote a Facebook post that has been shared over 14,000 times.

The 74-year-old is missing a pinky finger on his left hand, which suggests he participated in the yakuza ritual known as yubisume, where members chop off a portion of their little fingers to atone for serious offenses. His tattoos are also indicative of membership in the crime organization.

For starters, Shirai has been charged for overstaying in Thailand and is being held.

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