DOJ: Japanese Yakuza Leader Trafficked Nuclear Materials, Weapons-Grade Plutonium

Takeshi Ebisawa, 60
U.S. Department of Justice

A leader within Japan’s Yakuza crime syndicate is accused of trafficking nuclear materials, including uranium and weapons-grade plutonium, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday. 

Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, was allegedly caught conspiring with a network of associates to traffic nuclear materials from Burma to other countries, according to the agency. Ebisawa allegedly sent photos depicting samples of nuclear materials in Thailand to an undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

“With the assistance of Thai authorities, the Nuclear Samples were seized and subsequently transferred to the custody of U.S. law enforcement authorities,” according to the agency. “A U.S. nuclear forensic laboratory examined the Nuclear Samples and determined that both samples contain detectable quantities of uranium, thorium, and plutonium.”

Ebisawa believed the materials were going to be used in the development of a nuclear weapons program in Iran after an undercover agent posed as an Iranian general, according to the allegations contained in the indictment, which was unsealed on Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. 

It is impossible to overstate the seriousness of the conduct alleged in today’s Indictment. As alleged, Takeshi Ebisawa brazenly trafficked material containing uranium and weapons-grade plutonium from Burma to other countries,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

“He allegedly did so while believing that the material was going to be used in the development of a nuclear weapons program, and the weapons-grade plutonium he trafficked, if produced in sufficient quantities, could have been used for that purpose,” Williams added in part. “Even as he allegedly attempted to sell nuclear materials, Ebisawa also negotiated for the purchase of deadly weapons, including surface-to-air missiles.”

Ebisawa is facing charges of conspiracy to commit international trafficking of nuclear materials, international trafficking of nuclear materials, conspiracy to acquire, transfer, and possess surface-to-air missiles as well as narcotics and additional weapons charges.

He is facing multiple life sentences if convicted. He is expected to appear in court Thursday.

Ebisawa was previously charged in April 2022 with international narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses, the DOJ noted. 


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