US Arrests Yakuza Leader and 3 Thai Men Over Alleged Narcotics and Weapons Trafficking

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U.S. authorities have arrested a leader of a Japanese crime syndicate—also known as Yakuza—and three Thai men for drug trafficking and trying to acquire U.S.-made weaponry for “unstable nations,” the Justice Department said Thursday.

Yakuza leader Takeshi Ebisawa and his Thai national affiliates, Sompak Rukrasaranee, Somphob Singhasiri, and Suksan Jullanan, were arrested in Manhattan on April 4 and 5.

“We allege Mr. Ebisawa and his co-conspirators brokered deals with an undercover DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] agent to buy heavy-duty weaponry and sell large quantities of illegal drugs,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

“The drugs were destined for New York streets, and the weapons shipments were meant for factions in unstable nations. Members of this international crime syndicate can no longer put lives in danger and will face justice for their illicit actions,” he added.

The DEA has been investigating the transnational crime syndicate since at least 2019 in connection with large-scale narcotics and weapons trafficking spanning Japan, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

It stated that the men conspired to broker the purchase of U.S.-made surface-to-air missiles and other heavy-duty weaponry for multiple ethnic armed groups in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and to accept heroin and methamphetamine for distribution in exchange for the weapons.

According to the indictment, Ebisawa planned to buy rockets, machine guns, and automatic weapons for Burmese rebel groups the United WA State Army (UWSA), the Shan State Army, and the Karen National Union (KNU).

It stated that Ebisawa told the undercover DEA agent that “the political situation in Myanmar was deteriorating” and that the UWSA was “interested in purchasing large quantities of weapons.”

The Min Aung Hlaing-led military ousted an elected civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power in Burma on Feb. 1, 2021, sparking protests and clashes between the military and ethnic minority insurgents.

The indictment also stated that Ebisawa attempted to obtain weapons for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers, an armed separatist group in Sri Lanka.

In addition, it claimed that Ebisawa and Singhasiri conspired to sell 500 kilograms of methamphetamine and 500 kilograms of heroin to the undercover DEA agent for distribution in New York.

The Yakuza leader also worked to launder $100,000 in purported narcotics proceeds from the United States to Japan, it added.

“Ebisawa and his associates intended to distribute hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin to the United States, using deadly weapons to enable their criminal activities, at a time when nearly 300 Americans lose their lives to drug overdose every day,” DEA administrator Anne Milgram said.

All four of them face maximum sentences of life imprisonment for drug trafficking and weapons charges.

Aldgra Fredly

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Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.



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