Japanese Crime Leader Charged Over Bid to Sell Nuclear Material

A prominent leader within the Japanese organized crime syndicate faces charges related to the trafficking of nuclear material. The Yakuza boss is accused of obtaining weapons-grade fuel and attempting to distribute it unlawfully as part of an illicit arms transaction. Legal action is being pursued by both the DEA and the National Security Division of the Justice Department.

The origins of Japan’s Yakuza crime factions trace back to the 17th century, evolving from unstructured bands of samurai. Reaching their zenith in the 1960s, they have since waned due to Japan’s intensified efforts to curb their operations. Despite this, Yakuza syndicates remain among the wealthiest and most sophisticated criminal organizations globally. 

While primarily concentrated in Japan, they also conduct operations abroad. Recently, on February 22, a Manhattan court revealed charges against a Yakuza leader purportedly overseeing an international network involved in drug and arms trafficking, with alleged plans to delve into the trade of nuclear weapon materials.

As per the Department of Justice, Takeshi Ebisawa purportedly informed multiple individuals in 2020, among whom was an undisclosed informant cooperating with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), about possessing a substantial amount of nuclear material available for purchase. Ebisawa allegedly claimed this material consisted of thorium and uranium. Subsequently, the informant proposed connecting him with an Iranian military officer, who, unbeknownst to Ebisawa, was actually another undercover agent from the United States.

Convinced that he was aiding Iran’s illicit nuclear armament efforts, Ebisawa enhanced his proposition by claiming access to weapons-grade plutonium. Upon presenting samples, it was verified that his claims were accurate. Moreover, he wasn’t referring to insignificant amounts; he proposed selling the informant 50 tons of uranium and thorium for $6.85 million.

In addition to the nuclear material, Ebisawa purportedly plotted to vend narcotics originating from Burma, likely heroin, and engaged in discussions to procure various weapons such as rifles, machine guns, and surface-to-air missiles. Allegedly, these weapons were intended for a rebel faction in Burma. According to the indictment, the Justice Department asserts that Ebisawa’s illicit network spans across Asia, Europe, the United States, and other regions.

In addition to Ebisawa, the indictment also implicates a 61-year-old Thai individual, Somphop Singhasiri, as a co-conspirator. Thai law enforcement collaborated with US agencies in probing the case. Ebisawa is now charged with various offenses, including international trafficking of nuclear materials, conspiracy to import narcotics, two distinct counts of conspiracy to possess illicit weapons, and money laundering. Should he be found guilty, he could potentially receive a life sentence in prison.




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