Tattoos lead Thai police to arrest Japanese gang member

Japanese gang member Shigeharu Shirai displays his tattoos at a police station during a press conference in Lopburi, central Thailand, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. (AP Photo)

Thai police have arrested a 72-year-old Japanese fugitive who was recognized when his full-body tattoos were circulated online.

A police statement said Shigeharu Shirai was arrested Wednesday in a province north of Bangkok, where he has been hiding for over 10 years to evade murder charges in Japan in connection with the death of a rival gang member.

His arrest apparently came after photos of him sitting around a checkers table were posted on Facebook in August last year by a Thai who was impressed by the man's tattoos. The post was shared over 10,000 times when some users identified the former gang member.

Police Gen. Wirachai Songmetta said that Japanese associates paid visits to Shirai two to three times a year, each time bearing cash gifts at around 10,000 baht ($312). He's married to a Thai woman and kept a low profile over the past decade, police said.

According to police, Shirai was a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang, a faction within Japan's Yakuza. He's implicated, along with seven others, in the killing of Kashihiko Otobe, who was the deputy leader of the rival Kamiya gang.

Shirai will face illegal entry charges before he is handed over to Japanese authorities, the police statement said.

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