US arrests Japanese Yakuza boss over missile sales to Myanmar rebels

yakuza leader
Image: U.S. Department of Justice
  • Japanese Yakuza leader Takeshi Ebisawa was arrested alongside co-conspirators for plotting drug distribution and purchasing U.S. surface-to-air missiles for Myanmar rebels.
  • Authorities said Ebisawa planned to sell heroin and methamphetamine in the U.S. and acquired the missiles to protect drug shipments.
  • Ebisawa and his co-conspirators were detained in Manhattan, and each now faces a potential life sentence.
  • Ebisawa’s drug and weapons network extends to Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka and has been under investigation by the U.S. since 2019.

Japanese Yakuza leader Takeshi Ebisawa was arrested by U.S. officials Thursday on charges of plotting to sell drugs and for purchasing U.S. surface-to-air missiles for Myanmar rebels.

Ebisawa, 57, is described by federal prosecutors as a leader in a Japanese crime syndicate and is believed to have worked with co-conspirators. Their plot was discovered through their conversations with an undercover DEA agent. An unsealed criminal complaint Thursday revealed the missiles were meant to be used to protect drug shipments. Ebisawa had also schemed to sell heroin and methamphetamine in the U.S.

Ebisawa’s drug and weapons network has been under investigation since 2019 by U.S. authorities. In addition to its ties in Myanmar and the U.S., its operations extend to other parts of Asia, including Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka.  

The Yakuza boss and three co-conspirators were detained in Manhattan on six counts, including narcotics importation conspiracy and conspiracy to possess firearms. 

Each faces potential life sentences. 

“The drugs were destined for New York streets, and the weapons shipments were meant for factions in unstable nations,” the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams said in a statement. “Members of this international crime syndicate can no longer put lives in danger.”

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