New York prosecutors and the DEA have announced the arrest of a 57-year-old Japanese Yakuza leader who has been accused of attempting to buy stolen American weapons from Afghanistan in a weapons-for-narcotics deal involving armed ethnic groups in Myanmar, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to the release, Takeshi Ebisawa, along with three Thai co-conspirators, “conspired to broker the purchase from UC-1 of United States-made surface-to-air missiles (“SAMs”), as well as other heavy-duty weaponry, for multiple ethnic armed groups in Burma, and to accept large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine for distribution as partial payment for the weapons.” The other “heavy-duty weaponry” included M72 light anti-tank rocket launchers, M60 machine guns, and Colt Canada C8 fully automatic rifles, per the filed complaint from the Justice Department. Prosecutors also stated that Ebisawa “understood the weapons to have been manufactured in the United States and taken from United States military bases in Afghanistan and planned for the narcotics to be distributed in the New York market.”
Since 2019, Ebisawa had been on the DEA’s radar for large-scale narcotics and weapons trafficking in Japan, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, and the United States. The press release went on to say that an undercover DEA agent posing as an international narcotics and weapons trafficker (UC-1) was introduced to Ebisawa, who later introduced the agent to associates of his criminal network who “negotiated multiple narcotics and weapons transactions.” During this time, Ebisawa and one of his associates, Somphop Singhasiri, “conspired to sell 500 kilograms of methamphetamine and 500 kilograms of heroin to UC-1 for distribution in New York. In furtherance of that transaction, on or about June 16, 2021, and on or about September 27, 2021, Singhasiri provided samples of approximately one kilogram of methamphetamine and approximately 1.4 kilograms of heroin. Singhasiri conspired to possess and use firearms, including machine guns, to protect narcotics shipments. Ebisawa also worked to launder $100,000 in purported narcotics proceeds from the United States to Japan.”
Ebisawa and his associates were arrested in Manhattan on Tuesday and have been charged with narcotics importation conspiracy, conspiracy to possess firearms, including machineguns and destructive devices, conspiracy to acquire, transport, and possess anti-aircraft weapons, narcotics importation conspiracy, conspiracy to possess firearms, including machine guns and destructive devices, and money laundering. All four face a maximum sentence of life in prison.