A Japanese court said it had sentenced a yakuza mafia boss to death on Tuesday after he ordered a murder and attacks on three other citizens.
Satoru Nomura, the 74-year-old head of the "Kudo-kai" crime syndicate in southwest Japan, denied accusations he had masterminded the violent assaults on ordinary people.
Fukuoka District Court confirmed it had sentenced Nomura to death, while Japanese media said the verdict came despite a lack of evidence directly linking him to the crimes.
"I asked for a fair decision... You will regret this for the rest of your life," Nomura told the judge after his sentencing, according to the Nishinippon Shimbun.
The yakuza mafia were long tolerated in Japan as a necessary evil for ensuring order on the streets and getting things done quickly, however dubious the means.
But in recent decades, stiffer anti-gang regulations, waning social tolerance and a weak economy have resulted in steadily falling yakuza memberships.
Nomura was found guilty of ordering the fatal 1998 shooting of an ex-boss of a fisheries cooperative who exerted influence over port construction projects, major media outlets said.
He was also behind a 2014 attack on a relative of the murder victim, and a 2013 knife attack against a nurse at a clinic where Nomura was seeking treatment, the court reportedly said.
The 2012 shooting of a former police official who had investigated the Kudo-kai was also deemed Nomura's responsibility. The official survived with serious injuries to his waist and legs, media said.
Prosecutors reportedly argued that Nomura had exerted absolute control over the syndicate. His number two Fumio Tanoue was jailed for life on Tuesday, the court said.
The yakuza grew from the chaos of post-war Japan into multi-billion-dollar criminal organisations, involved in everything from drugs and prostitution to protection rackets and white-collar crime.
Unlike the Italian Mafia or Chinese triads, yakuza have long occupied a grey area in Japanese society -- they are not illegal, and each group has its own headquarters in full view of police.
With more than 100 inmates on death row, Japan is one of few developed nations to retain the death penalty.
Public support for capital punishment remains high despite international criticism, including from rights groups.