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

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

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

“The drugs were destined for the streets of New York and the arms shipments were destined for factions in unstable countries,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “Members of this international crime syndicate can no longer put lives at risk.”

Since 2019, US authorities have been investigating Ebisawa’s drug and arms trafficking network, which stretches from Japan, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka and the United States, the ministry said. Justice in a statement.

Ebisawa, 57, and three co-conspirators were arrested in Manhattan this week on charges of conspiracy to import narcotics and conspiracy to possess firearms, prosecutors said. An attorney for Ebisawa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

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