WASHINGTON: The alleged leader of Japan’s Yakuza crime syndicate was charged in the United States with trying to sell weapons-grade nuclear materials from Myanmar to buyers from other nations, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The DOJ said Takeshi Ebisawa in 2020 conspired to transport uranium and plutonium so nations such as Iran could use them to develop nuclear weapons, United Press International (UPI) reported, citing ABC News and The Hill.

“It is chilling to imagine the consequences had these efforts succeeded, and the Justice Department will hold accountable those who traffic in these materials and threaten US national security and international stability,“ Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a news release.

Ebisawa, 60, and another defendant were charged with trafficking narcotics following an arrest in Manhattan in April 2022. Both pleaded not guilty to federal charges in the matter, and the US circuit court judge ordered the pair to be detained.

The superseding indictment in that case says Ebisawa in 2020 told undercover law enforcement agents that he had a large amount of weapons-grade nuclear material to sell and provided them with photos of the substances and Geiger counters showing their levels of radiation.

Others involved in the alleged crime told the undercover agents that they had more than 2,000 kilograms of Thorium-232 and more than 100 kilograms of uranium capable of making up to 10,000 pounds of nuclear materials.

The DOJ charged Ebisawa with seven felonies for conspiring to traffic nuclear materials, narcotics importation, possess firearms and surface-to-air missiles, and money laundering. The maximum penalties for each charge is 10 years up to life imprisonment. -Bernama-UPI

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