Japanese crime boss accused of trafficking nuclear material from Myanmar

Takeshi Ebisawa
Takeshi Ebisawa allegedly a leader of yakuza, a Japanese crime gang - Southern District of New York/REUTERS

Authorities in the United States have charged the leader of a Japanese crime syndicate with conspiring to traffic nuclear materials from Myanmar for expected use by Iran.

Alleged yakuza boss Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, and co-defendant Somphop Singhasiri, a 61-year-old Thai national, are accused of trafficking drugs, weapons and nuclear material, after their alleged crimes were exposed by an undercover operation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The men had acted “so far as to offer uranium and weapons-grade plutonium fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons,” said Anne Milgram, the head of the DEA.

A new indictment against the pair states that 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”.

It adds that in early 2020, Ebisawa had told another person and a DEA source that he had access “to a large quantity of nuclear materials that he wished to sell”.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said: “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.”

Ebisawa is accused of conspiring to sell weapons-grade nuclear material and lethal narcotics from Myanmar and to buy military weapons on behalf of an armed insurgent group.

The two men were charged in 2022 with international narcotics trafficking and firearms offences. The new charges were contained in a superseding indictment.