Japanese Yakuza Leader Charged with Trafficking Nuclear Material from Myanmar

Published: 26 February 2024

cloud-sky-sunlight-wind-tower-chimneyTakeshi Ebisawa offered to supply nuclear material such as uranium, plutonium and thorium to undercover agents who pretended to need it for weapons development. (Photo: PxHere, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

The United States charged the head of a Japanese crime group who tried to sell plutonium and uranium from Myanmar to undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. The agents pretended to be buying it on behalf of Iran.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York, according to a statement from the Justice Department. “It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of this conduct.

Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, proposed to the leader of an unidentified “ethnic insurgent group” in Myanmar to sell nuclear material to an Iranian general through him. The plan was to then use the money to buy weapons from the general, including surface-to-air missiles.

The yakuza boss even showed samples of the nuclear material to one of the agents in a hotel room in Thailand. Thai authorities seized the samples and handed them over to the U.S. where  a laboratory confirmed that they contained “detectable quantities of uranium, thorium, and plutonium,” the statement said.

Ebisawa was arrested in Manhattan in April 2022 along with four associates as they tried to negotiate the weapons deal.

He has been jailed awaiting trial. Ebisawa and his co-defendant, Somphop Singhasiri, 61, were charged in April 2022 with drug trafficking and firearms offenses.

Ebisawa is now also charged with international trafficking of nuclear materials, conspiracy to commit that crime, and several other counts.

The Japanese transnational organized crime syndicate yakuza, which has existed for more than 300 years and now has affiliates across the world, is known to be involved in crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, money laundering, and so-called white-collar crimes such as embezzlement and extortion.