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Japan

Chinese man, eight others convicted in Japan for biggest gold smuggling plot with ships for secret cargo transfer

In Japan, the consumption tax, currently at 8 per cent, is levied on gold when it is imported. But smugglers try to evade the tax and sell smuggled gold to shops that will buy it at a price including the tax

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 March, 2018, 10:39pm

A court on Monday convicted the last of nine men charged with smuggling 206 kilograms of gold into a southwestern Japan port in the largest-ever gold seizure case in the country.

The Saga District Court handed down a 30-month prison term for Lin Yashan, a 43-year-old Chinese national, suspended for five years, and a fine of 1.5 million yen (US$14,000) for importing gold bars estimated to be worth around 930 million yen without permission into Karatsu, Saga Prefecture in May last year.

The court also ordered confiscation of the gold as sought by prosecutors. The suspended jail term and fine were also in line with their request.

The other eight men indicted over the smuggling case have already been convicted. Takesuke Yamazaki, 67, considered the ringleader of the Japanese side of the operation, was sentenced to two years in prison with a fine of 1.5 million yen.

According to Monday’s ruling, Lin and the others evaded consumption and other taxes worth some 74.4 million yen by unloading the gold at Karatsu port after transferring it to a ship from another vessel of unknown nationality on the high seas in the East China Sea.

Presiding Judge Hiroyuki Yoshii said Lin “was involved in the crucial part of the smuggling” as he took the gold from China but added that he was not the key plotter.

Defence lawyers are planning to appeal the ruling.

In Japan, the consumption tax, currently at 8 per cent, is levied on gold when it is imported. But smugglers try to evade the tax and sell smuggled gold to shops that will buy it at a price including the tax.

The number of gold smuggling cases has seen a sharp rise, especially since Japan raised the consumption tax to 8 per cent from 5 per cent in April 2014.

The government plans to hike it to 10 per cent in October 2019.

Until June 2014, the number of gold smuggling cases handled by law enforcement authorities averaged less than 10 per year but the figure in a one-year period through June 2015 shot up to 177 before jumping further to 294 a year later.

In the year through June 2017, the number of gold smuggling cases handled by customs authorities hit a record 467 involving around 870 million yen in tax evasion, also the largest on record according to government data.

Japanese customs officials are stepping up their hunt for gold smugglers.

In November last year, the Finance Ministry decided to impose higher fines on gold smugglers and strengthen customs inspections with the use of metal detectors.