US charges Japanese crime leader with trafficking nuclear materials from Myanmar

Takeshi Ebisawa poses with a rocket launcher during a meeting with an informant and two undercover Danish police officers at a warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark February 3, 2021, in a photograph from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) criminal complaint. - US Magistrate Judge/Southern District of New York/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters): US authorities on Wednesday charged the leader of a Japanese crime syndicate with conspiring to traffic nuclear materials from Myanmar for expected use by Iran in nuclear weapons, the Justice Department said.

Takeshi Ebisawa, 60, and co-defendant Somphop Singhasiri, 61, trafficked in drugs, weapons and nuclear material, "going so far as to offer uranium and weapons-grade plutonium fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons," said Anne Milgram, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Both men have been ordered detained, the department said in a statement.

Ebisawa is accused of conspiring to sell weapons-grade nuclear material and lethal narcotics from Myanmar and to buy military weapons on behalf of an armed insurgent group, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said.

"It is chilling to imagine the consequences had these efforts succeeded," Olsen said.

The two men were charged in 2022 with international narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses. The new charges were contained in a superseding indictment.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Chris Reese) - Reuters

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