Yakuza boss schemed to buy missiles in exchange for drugs, feds say

A Japanese Yakuza boss and three others were busted in a globe-spanning scheme to buy missiles for Burmese rebels in exchange for massive amounts of drugs, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Japan citizen Takeshi Ebisawa, 57, negotiated deals with an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent to ship US-made weapons to insurgent groups who paid with kilos of meth and heroin, according to a complaint unsealed Thursday.

The alleged traffickers were planning to distribute the drugs in New York and provide heavy-duty weapons like surface-to-air missiles to two militant groups engaged in the ongoing violence in war-torn Burma, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York said.

“The drugs were destined for New York streets, and the weapons shipments were meant for factions in unstable nations,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

“Members of this international crime syndicate can no longer put lives in danger and will face justice for their illicit actions.”

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The drugs would have ended up on the streets of New York, officials said.
U.S. Dept. of Justice

Also arrested in the scheme were Thailand citizens Somphop Singhasiri, 58, Suksan “Bobby” Jullanan, 53, and Sompak Rukrasaranee, 55. Sinhasiri and Rikrasaranee are Thailand citizens, while Jullanan is a citizen of Thailand and the US, prosecutors said.

All four men were busted Monday and Tuesday in Manhattan and are being held following their first court appearances.

The DEA has allegedly been watching Ebisawa since at least 2019, saying he’s a big player in drug and weapons trafficking for the Yakuza international criminal syndicate. The operation to uncover the screen included an undercover agent meeting members of the network in Japan, Thailand and elsewhere.

Ebisawa used the codeword “bamboo” to describe the weapons, which were to be provided to the ethnic-based groups Shan State Army and Karen National Union, according to the complaint. The Yakuza leader, Jullanan and Rukrasaranee believed the weapons had been stolen from two US military bases in Afghanistan, the complaint alleges.

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Ebisawa was allegedly planning on distributing the weapons to Burmese rebels.
U.S. Dept. of Justice

Ebisawa and Singhasiri planned to distribute 500 kilograms of meth and another 500 kilograms of heroin, according to the complaint.

Jullanan and Rukrasaranee are facing charges of narcotics importation conspiracy, and conspiracy to acquire, transfer and possess surface-to-air missiles.

Ebisawa is facing the same charges and an additional charge of money laundering.

Sinhasiri was booked on charges of narcotics importation conspiracy and conspiracy to possess firearms.

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US Attorney Damian Williams said that the Yakuza could “no longer put lives in danger.”
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