By Zach Arnold | March 13, 2006
By Zach Arnold
Seiya Kawamata, the man who filed the complaint with Kanagawa police about being threatened by the yakuza, had an interview/briefing with Shukan (Weekly) Gendai about the recent yakuza arrests. Kawamata names some big names and makes some direct accusations.
This is the top story in the publication, as the front page cover has a screaming headline in black text on yellow background.
In the story, Kawamata gives his side as to what happened on the morning on 12/21/2003, the day before the infamous press conference (in which he addressed the media about Fedor and matchmaking). Kawamata alleges that DSE boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara was present at a meeting with him. In the article, Kawamata makes the claim that Sakakibara is just a figure-head for the yakuza.
Additionally, the article claims that Nippon TV & Fuji TV knew about the yakuza involvement. The TV networks in response deny these charges. Fuji TV went a step further and claimed that they knew nothing about the matchmaking process, even though TV producer Kunio Kiyohara is creatively active (similar to how all the major TV producers are). The article also hints that the police are interested in dealing with people from the TV industry as well.
Here is a translation of the article:
Top Story: Scoop – N-TV (Inoki event) Producer’s Explosive Statements
“Relations between TV broadcasters and yakuza”
Summary headline: “He stole the fight and ran away overseas” was the way the event producer was characterized, but the reality was that he was threatened by the yakuza. The TV networks were involved in a war for TV ratings and would anything to get these. Who is the bad guy in all of this?
“Ask a powerful yakuza for their help”
Kawamata: “You know what the risk is of taking on Fuji TV and PRIDE’s headline fighter Fedor, don’t you? Yakuza will be involved. When I asked N-TV’s producer this question, he replied that “we should get an even stronger yakuza to ensure that Fedor can fight at our event.” N-TV will deny this, but it is the truth.”
On February 24th, 2006, based on Seiya Kawamata’s criminal complaint, Sakamoto and two other top-ranking yakuza members from Yamaguchi-gumi were arrested.
According to a national newspaper news reporter, “Sakamoto is a top-ranking yakuza even within the top ranks of the yakuza. After the event, Kawamata was summoned to a lonely place (restaurant) in Shizuoka he was told that Fedor was able to fight due to the efforts of the yakuza and that unless he paid 200 million yen for their services, they would kill him.”
Until now, there has constantly been rumors of relations between the fight industry and the yakuza. As a result of this incident, this dark relationship between the yakuza and the fight industry has come out into the light of day. The above comment from Kawamata is taken from an exclusive interview of Kawamata by Tadashi Tanaka. This clear statement of a connection between the TV broadcaster and the yakuza will become a very important piece of evidence.
Before we talk about Kawamata’s explosive revelations, let’s recall the events leading up to the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 event. On New Year’s Eve of 2003, we were all enthralled by the war for ratings between the 3 major networks. N-TV had Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003, TBS had Dynamite, and Fuji TV had PRIDE’s Otoko Matsuri (Man Festival). Inoki 2003 got an average rating of 5.1%, Dynamite got 19.5%, and PRIDE got 12.2. N-TV was a major disaster.
In January of 2004, N-TV decided not to pay Kawamata the remaining 200 million yen that was due from the total of 800 million yen, and also to terminate the 3-year contract they had in place with him. In May of 2004, Kawamata took legal action against N-TV for these actions, and this matter is still before the courts.
According to court documents, around October of 2003, N-TV approached Kawamata (who was at that time negotiating with Fuji TV for the New Year’s Eve event). N-TV offered Kawamata a 3-year contract and pleaded for Kawamata to work for them.
Kawamata entered into a contract with N-TV for a 3-year term at 800 million yen for each New Year’s Eve event. However, the main fighter, Mirko Cro Cop, suddenly cancelled his appearance and Kawamata looked to book Fedor in his place.
According to court documents, as a result of signing Fedor, Kawamata was subjected to strong pressure and various measures to stop him from allowing Fedor to fight at the event, and Kawamata explained all of these things in detail to N-TV’s event producer, Miyamoto. On January 1, 2004, as a result of Fedor’s appearance at the event, Sakamoto applied pressure to Kawamata to pay the demanded amount and following this pressure, Kawamata called Miyamoto and told him of all these matters.
On January 3, 2004, Kawamata (without paying the fight money to various fighters) escaped overseas. In the fight industry, it was rumored that he was dead. In fact, Kawamata has been back in Japan secret since January of this year. Up until then, he didn’t tell anybody but he has been back to give evidence on January 19th, 2006, in his trial against Nippon TV. At that trial, he said the following:
Wakuda (Kawamata’s lawyer): What did you say to N-TV about Fedor’s appearance at the event?
Kawamata: I told Miyamoto that Fuji TV wants PRIDE to have Fedor appear as their main event and so, if Fedor fights at our event, the yakuza will become involved to pressure me not to allow Fedor to appear.
Wakuda: In fact, were you actually pressured by the yakuza?
Kawamata: I received calls to my mobile phone from the yakuza and I was ordered to attend a meeting to be held between the yakuza and also top management of DSE.
Wakuda: That was a meeting to be held on December 21, 2003, which was to be held before the press conference scheduled to announce the full fight card for Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003, right?
Kawamata: Yes. At that meeting, there were a number of yakuza present and also Sakakibara from DSE, and also the person they call the real owner of DSE. I was held against my will at this meeting…
Wakuda: They demanded that Fedor not fight?
Kawamata: Of course.
Kawamata was held against his will by yakuza other than Sakamoto and the other yakuza arrested. Sakamoto and his yakuza group were at this time on Kawamata’s side. They were negotiating with yakuza representing PRIDE. However, as soon as the event was over, Sakamoto and his group changed their attitude and started to attack Kawamata.
Kawamata says, “I told the police the following. On December 12, 2003, I had a call from Sakamoto. I want you to meet with PRIDE people, and Sakakibara will be there as well. I knew Sakamoto and his yakuza group for around three years, and we were on good terms. On December 21, 2003, as ordered I waited with Sakamoto and his group in a Tokyo hotel and top-ranking yakuza came with Sakakibara to the meeting. When the high-level yakuza sat down he said to me, “Actually, we run PRIDE. We can’t go out into the public and that’s why we use Sakakibara as the figurehead. So what the hell are you doing taking our fighters!” Even though the agreed 30 minutes for this meeting had passed, I couldn’t leave my seat.”
The name Sakakibara appears a number of times in Kawamata’s comments. This man is the main driving force behind PRIDE. Not only does he appear in fight-related programming, but he also often appears in variety programs. If it is true that he has used the yakuza or attended the meeting with yakuza present, then this is a major incident.
In any event, Kawamata was one-hour late to the pre-arranged press conference that day. This press conference finished without the expected announcement of Fedor’s fight. However, this was not the only pressure applied.
According to Tadashi Tanaka’s interview of Kawamata, Kawamata says, “On New Year’s Eve, PRIDE sent the yakuza to the event. The yakuza came to my hotel, the Kobe Okura. The yakuza demanded that I admit that DSE had the exclusive rights to Fedor. The yakuza said that regardless of whether DSE had a contract for Fedor or not, I would have to get the approval of DE before I could use any fighter which had appeared in PRIDE events. This is ridiculous, right? But they forced me to sign this. If I didn’t sign this, they said that all sorts of things could happen at the event that night.”
Kawamata also said this to the police: “When you compare PRIDE events to other events, you can easily see that there are many more yakuza at PRIDE events. These days, even though the TV broadcasters should be concerned about this, Fuji TV’s producer explicitly said to me, “I know all about these things. But, Sakakibara handles them pretty well so everything is OK.” If this is true, then Fuji TV cannot deny that they knew about the yakuza involvement.
A major name from the fight industry will be arrested
In a revelation that is a major problem for N-TV, Kawamata says the following: “I told everything about the threats made to me by the yakuza to Miyamoto of N-TV. Of course, I told him. Miyamoto knew all about the intereference to the event and all of the troubles. When I was summoned to attend the meeting with the yakuza on December 21, 2003, I told him that to avoid trouble I will attend this meeting.”
According to witness evidence of Miyamoto at the K-Confidence vs. N-TV trial, Miyamoto testified that “Kawamata did tell me that he was subject to pressure from PRIDE as soon as he signed Fedor. I heard a rumor that there was a lot of yakuza activity around this time.” This means that N-TV knew all about the yakuza activities and even so, they proceeded with the program and put all of the blame on Kawamata.
According to the PR department of N-TV, “We have not heard anything about Miyamoto attending any meeting when there was yakuza present. And in relation to the allegation that he requested even stronger yakuza to intervene, we can say that we cannot imagine that he said anything like this. If we knew that yakuza were involved in this event, we would have cut relations with Kawamata.”
In response to whether Fuji TV will take responsibility for its continued broadcast of PRIDE events, which are related to the yakuza, Fuji TV’s PV department said, “We retain DSE to take care of all matters related to the events and we do not know anything about the matchmaking process. As a result, we cannot make any comment in relation to the matter of responsibility.”
According to DSE’s PR department, “Due to the existence of a legal dispute between Kawamata and N-TV, we do not want to make any comment. Mr. Sakakibara says that there is no truth to the accusation that he was present at any meetings with yakuza. Relations with those people is only a negative.”
According to the president of a fight promoter, “I hear that the arrest person, Sakamoto, is part of a yakuza group which was originally behind Kawamata. However, at the end of Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003, even though they were supposed to be on his side, this group began to threaten and extort Kawamata. Kawamata had no choice but to escape overseas. If DSE used the yakuza in negotiations, I can imagine that they had to pay a large amount of money to those yakuza. The TV networks knew all about these issues, but left the details to Kawamata and Sakakibara.” We can expect that the investigation will spread.
According to a news and crime reporter from a major daily newspaper, “The police are now checking how the money from fight events was paid to the yakuza. The arrest of Sakamoto and his group is only the beginning of this matter, and we can expect that this investigation will spread a lot further. The police are expecting to arrest a major name from the fight industry.”
If this is all fact, the background of the fight industry is indeed black.