US

Japanese Yakuza boss charged over alleged trafficking of nuclear materials to Iran

US authorities have charged the leader of a Japanese crime syndicate with conspiring to traffic nuclear materials from Myanmar for expected use in Iranian nuclear weapons.

Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, and his co-defendant Somphop Singhasiri, 61, trafficked in drugs, weapons, and nuclear material, “going so far as to offer uranium and weapons-grade plutonium fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons,” said Anne Milgram, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“This is an extraordinary example of the depravity of drug traffickers who operate with total disregard for human life,” she said.

Some of the nuclear materials. Pic: US Department of Justice
Image:
Some of the nuclear materials. Pic: US Department of Justice

Some of the nuclear materials. Pic: US Department of Justice
Image:
Pic: US Department of Justice

US officials believe Mr Ebisawa is a senior leader within the Yakuza transnational organised crime syndicate.

The nuclear materials were transported from Myanmar to Thailand to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent posing as a narcotics and weapons trafficker who had access to an Iranian general, according to federal officials.

The nuclear material came from an unidentified leader of an “ethnic insurgent group” in Myanmar who had been mining uranium in the country.

Some of the nuclear materials. Pic: US Department of Justice
Image:
Some of the nuclear materials. Pic: US Department of Justice

Legal officials allege that Mr Ebisawa had proposed that the leader sell uranium through him in order to buy deadly weapons – including the purchase of surface-to-air missiles – from the general.

More on Japan

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said: “It is chilling to imagine the consequences had these efforts succeeded.”

The two men had been charged in 2022 with international narcotics trafficking and firearms offences after a DEA sting operation.

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A superseding indictment contained the latest charges.

The defendants will be arraigned on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan.

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