US authorities have arrested a leader of a Japanese crime syndicate on charges of plotting to distribute drugs in the United States and purchase weapons including US-made surface-to-air missiles.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Takeshi Ebisawa, who they described as a leader in a network of Japanese crime families known as yakuza, and a co-conspirator agreed to buy the missiles for rebel groups in Myanmar during conversations with an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

The weapons were intended to protect drug shipments, according to a criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday. Ebisawa planned to distribute heroin and methamphetamine in the United States, prosecutors said.

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

Since 2019, US authorities have been investigating Ebisawa’s drug and weapons-dealing network, which reaches from Japan, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, and the United States, the justice department said in a statement.

Ebisawa, 57, and three co-conspirators were detained in Manhattan this week on charges including narcotics importation conspiracy and conspiracy to possess firearms, prosecutors said. A lawyer for Ebisawa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Each of the four co-conspirators face maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Source: The Guardian