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US: Japanese Yakuza leader charged for trafficking nuclear materials from Myanmar

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Washington DC | February 22, 2024 7:54:40 AM IST
A leader of the Japanese organized crime syndicate Yakuza, identified as Takeshi Ebisawa, has been charged by US prosecutors with conspiring to traffic nuclear materials including uranium and weapons-grade Plutonium from Myanmar to other countries, according to a superseding indictment announced Wednesday, The Hill reported.

Authorities said they brought the charges against Takeshi Ebisawa after he and other associates in Thailand allegedly showed samples of nuclear material to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent posing as a narcotics and weapons trafficker, the Hill reported.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release that the US worked with Thai authorities to seize the nuclear samples, which were subsequently transferred to US law enforcement custody.

A US nuclear forensic lab confirmed the samples contained uranium and weapons-grade plutonium, according to the DOJ.

According to court documents, Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, and co-defendant Somphop Singhasiri, 61, were previously charged in April 2022 with international narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses, and both have been ordered detained.

"As alleged, the defendant brazenly trafficked material containing uranium and weapons-grade plutonium from Burma to other countries," said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York.

Federal prosecutors stressed the significance of the charges against a leader of the Yakuza, a crime syndicate that operates in multiple countries around the world.

"Ebisawa's criminal activities have included large-scale narcotics and weapons trafficking, and his international criminal network extends through Asia, Europe, and the United States, among other places," the indictment states.

"He did so while believing that the material was going to be used in the development of a nuclear weapons program, and while also negotiating for the purchase of deadly weapons. It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of this conduct. I want to thank the career prosecutors of my office and our law enforcement partners for ensuring that the defendant will now face justice in an American court."

US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement it's "impossible to overstate the seriousness of the conduct alleged in today's Indictment."

"Even as he allegedly attempted to sell nuclear materials, Ebisawa also negotiated for the purchase of deadly weapons, including surface-to-air missiles," Williams stated.

According to the indictment, the undercover DEA agent agreed to broker the sale of the nuclear materials from Ebisawa to an associate posing as an Iranian general.

Ebisawa has been charged along with another defendant who was also previously accused of international narcotics trafficking and firearm offenses in 2022. The pair will be arraigned before a judge Thursday afternoon.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said the defendants allegedly offered the nuclear material "fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons."

"This is an extraordinary example of the depravity of drug traffickers who operate with total disregard for human life," Milgram said in a statement.

"The defendant stands accused of conspiring to sell weapons grade nuclear material and lethal narcotics from Burma, and to purchase military weaponry on behalf of an armed insurgent group," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division. "It is chilling to imagine the consequences had these efforts succeeded and the Justice Department will hold accountable those who traffic in these materials and threaten US national security and international stability," the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release.

Olsen said Ebisawa was allegedly conspiring to sell the nuclear material from Myanmar "and to purchase military weaponry on behalf of an armed insurgent group." (ANI)

 
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