Japanese fugitive Shigeharu Shirai arrested in Thailand after distinctive tattoos are recognised

Ex-yakuza suspected in '03 murder in Mie apprehended in Thailand

He was arrested while out shopping in Lopburi, a city north of Bangkok, after photos of him sitting around a checkers table were posted on Facebook in August past year by a Thai man who was impressed by the man's distinctive full body tattoos.

AFP reports eight gang members were said to be involved in the rival's murder; the others were all arrested and sentenced to 12 to 17 years.

Japanese gang member Shigeharu Shirai displays his tattoos at a police station during a press conference in Lopburi.

"When I grow old, I want to be like him".

A missing little finger, which reflected a tradition by yakuza members of slicing off a fingertip in atonement for an offence, also provided a clue to his true identity.

Police said he had confessed to being part of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang within Japan's Yakuza, but not to murder.

When the pictures of Mr Shirai went viral they caught the attention of Japanese police who requested his arrest.

The post, which was shared more than 10,000 times, helped some users identify him as the fugitive and ended a multi-national manhunt between the Thai Investigation Bureau and the Japanese Interpol.

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Shigeharu Shirai is accused of murdering a gang rival in 2003.

Shirai reportedly fled to Thailand in 2005 and married a woman there, and the AP reports by way of police that Shirai was visited two or three times annually by cronies who provided him with cash.

However, Yakuza are known for making much of their earnings illicitly through the likes of gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking and cyber-hacking.

Members of the gangs traditionally distinguish themselves with intricate tattoos, which come to symbolise a person's toughness and acceptance of being an outcast from society.

He was detained in Lopburi (which is north of Bangkok) for entering Thailand illegally, as he had no passport or visa.

Shirai had tried to keep a low profile during his stay in Thailand, the police said.

Unlike the Italian Mafia or Chinese triads, yakuza are not illegal and each group has its own headquarters in full view of police.

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