What is Yakuza? US Arrests Kingpin of Japan's Notorious Drug Syndicate Over Plot to Acquire Missiles

US officials have arrested Takeshi Ebisawa, the kingpin of a syndicate of powerful criminal gangs in Japan 'Yakuza' which has been around for 400 years. He was arrested over the charges of plotting to distribute drugs in the United States and purchase weapons including stolen US-made surface-to-air missiles.

Takeshi Ebisawa
Takeshi Ebisawa Twitter

Ebisawa, 57, and a co-conspirator had agreed to purchase missiles for rebel groups in Myanmar during their conversations with an undercover agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Ebisawa Planned to Distribute Methamphetamine in US

According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday, the weapons mainly were focused to protect the drug shipments. Prosecutors have also revealed that Ebisawa was in plans to distribute heroin and methamphetamine in the US.

Damian Williams, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, said in a statement, "The drugs were destined for New York streets, and the weapons shipments were meant for factions in unstable nations."

Williams also assured that following the arrest of Yakuza head members of this international crime syndicate can no longer put lives in danger.

Yakuza Has Strong Network in Thailand, Burma Lanka

Authorities in the US were investigating Ebisawa's drug and weapons-dealing network since 2019 as his syndicate Yakuza is believed to have strong connections from Japan, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

Yakuza, which has a history of hundreds of years, was not only part of criminal activities in Japan but also has a history of providing supplies such as food, water, and blankets to the people during the 2011 tsunami and Kobe earthquake in 1995.

Isolated Group Started Yakuza

Initially, the group started with the members of the Burakumin, the lowest social group in Japan.

They apparently consisted of executioners, butchers, undertakers, leatherworkers, and those who worked with death; the people who were considered 'unclean' in Buddhist and Shinto society, according to UNILAD.

Their forced isolation had started in the 11th century but in the 16th century, formal laws were established in the country to cast the Burakumin out of society, which forced many to live in towns of their own.

As a result of the exclusion, their crimes started widening as sons of Burakumin started selling stolen items, and some set up places for illegal gambling.

Yakuza members Twitter/@ImuraJohn

Their crimes and groups later became organized. But descendants of Burakumin still face discrimination in society however, they still dominate the crime syndicate.

The group's crimes include drug dealing extortion sex work and trafficking. Members of the group cover their skin in tattoos and cut one finger in their left hand.

In recent years, the members of the gang were declining as an anti-Yakuza law was established in 1991 which prohibited a gangster to get involved in legitimate businesses. In the following years, some more laws were introduced to restrict the group.

How Did DEA Agents Arrest Ebisawa?

Federal agents had convinced Ebisawa for dinner in Manhattan on Monday after three years of secret meetings in Copenhagen, Bali, Bangkok, and other places.

He was arrested with two of his co-conspirators, at Morton's Steakhouse in Manhattan while one other co-conspirator was arrested the next day.

Ebisawa used to refer to weapons as bamboo, drugs as cake, and ice cream when he was brokering a deal with the federal agents.

The complaint has revealed that Ebisawa met the two undercover agents in Copenhagen in Feb 2021, where agents had shown him various US Army weapons three portable M72 light anti-tank rocket weapons, ten 7.62 M60 machine guns, and ten 5.56 Colt Canada C8 fully automatic rifles. The undercover agents had also shown him the images and videos o the 400 U.S. Army surface-to-air Stinger missiles which they claimed were placed at a nearby bunker, according to NY Daily News.