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U.S. prosecutors have charged a Japanese mob leader with conspiring to traffic nuclear material from Southeast Asia to Iran. 

Prosecutors say Yakuza leader Takeshi Ebisawa showed samples of nuclear materials to an undercover DEA agent posing as a narcotics and weapons trafficker with links to Iran. 

The nuclear material had been smuggled from Myanmar to Thailand, prosecutors said. The material was later seized and samples were found to contain uranium and weapons-grade plutonium.

japanese yakuza

U.S. prosecutors have charged Takeshi Ebisawa in an international crime operation.  (Southern District of New York )

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said Ebisawa and his cohorts trafficked in drugs, weapons, and nuclear material “fully expecting that Iran would use it for nuclear weapons” 

“This is an extraordinary example of the depravity of drug traffickers who operate with total disregard for human life,” Milgram said.

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The nuclear material came from an unidentified leader of an “ethnic insurgent group” in Myanmar who had been mining uranium in the country, according to prosecutors. Ebisawa had proposed that the leader sell uranium through him to fund a weapons purchase from an Iranian general, court documents allege.

Prosecutors said the insurgent leader provided samples, which a U.S. federal lab found contained uranium, thorium and plutonium. The “the isotope composition of the plutonium” was found to be weapons-grade, meaning enough of it would be suitable for use in a nuclear weapon.

Ebisawa, 60, was among four people who were arrested in April 2022 in Manhattan during a DEA sting operation. He has been jailed awaiting trial and is among two defendants named in a superseding indictment. Ebisawa is charged with the international trafficking of nuclear materials, conspiracy to commit that crime, and several other counts.

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The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in federal court in Manhattan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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