crime

China sentences former Japanese politician to life for drug smuggling

23 Comments
By Yanan Wang

A court in southern China sentenced an elderly former Japanese politician to life in prison Friday for smuggling drugs in shoes packed inside a suitcase he was trying to take to his home country.

A man from Mali was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve and a Guinean received a life sentence for packing and delivering the suitcase, according to the Guangzhou City First Intermediate Court.

Takuma Sakuragi, 76, pleaded not guilty and plans to appeal, said his Guangzhou-based lawyer, Chen Weixiong, who argued there was insufficient evidence to prove Sakuragi was knowingly carrying the drugs.

According to Chen, a Nigerian acquaintance asked Sakuragi to bring what appeared to be a suitcase full of women's platform shoes with him back to Japan. The acquaintance claimed the suitcase was intended for his wife, who works as a designer in Tokyo, Chen said, but in fact methamphetamine had been hidden in the heels of the shoes.

Sakuragi is a former city assemblyman from Aichi in central Japan. Chinese law exempts people over 75 from the death penalty, which is often imposed for drug-related offenses.

He was detained in 2013 when about 3.3 kilograms (more than 6 pounds) of methamphetamine was found in his luggage, the court said. Sakuragi planned to go to Shanghai for a connecting flight back to Japan, it said.

The other two men sentenced were identified by their Chinese names - Ali, a citizen of Mali, and Moxi from Guinea. Death sentences with two-year reprieves are almost always commuted to life in prison.

The court said Ali and Moxi were responsible for packing and delivering the suitcase, and that police seized 18.15 grams of methamphetamine at their residence.

Chen said Ali was spotted on a surveillance camera packing the suitcase, while Moxi's fingerprints were found inside the bag.

Japanese media reported the verdict in Sakuragi's case was delayed while authorities tracked down others who were involved. Sakuragi's health has declined, and prior to the sentencing he had been hopeful he would be found innocent, Chen said.

The court said the three defendants violated Chinese customs regulations by knowingly trying to smuggle drugs out of the country. It added, however, that they were given relatively light sentences because Sakuragi had not yet gone through customs with the drugs at the time of his arrest.

Under Chinese law, Sakuragi will be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 15 years. His fate could be affected by developments in China-Japan relations, which have been relatively stable in recent years. Many Chinese remain deeply bitter over Japan's brutal occupation of parts of the country in the 1930s and 1940s and the two countries have an ongoing dispute over ownership of a group of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Convicted drug traffickers are severely punished in China. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen, was sentenced to death in January for involvement in a methamphetamine smuggling operation in the port city of Dalian.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

23 Comments
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The old man was in on the deal 100% Of course he is going to deny any involvement.

Assuming this was political, would imply that Chinese Customs knowingly allows smugglers to pass. That’s ridiculous he got caught and he happens to be Japanese that’s it.

His sentence is fair according to the Law in China. That’s the risk of doing business in China.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's hard to have sympathy for someone dumb enough to carry a suitcase full of stuff packed by someone else.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Its a political anti-Japan judgment by Communist PRC. Just another way to attack Japan. Let Sakuragi go free, he is very old, why would he traffick drugs.

As you have often quoted in the past Ganbare "There culture, their rules".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Lock your suitcase firm. no kindness needed to carry anything else for stranger when travel in/out PRC.

His fate could be affected by developments in China-Japan relations, which have been relatively stable in recent years. Many Chinese remain deeply bitter over Japan's brutal occupation of parts of the country in the 1930s and 1940s and the two countries have an ongoing dispute over ownership of a group of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Really? Well you had better not go to PRC in the 1st place then.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Let them all go.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't ya just love the Chinese government? China is one of the world's largest produces of fentanyl and yet they send a Japanese drug smuggler to prison for life.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are no special people before Chinese laws, be it Japanese smugglers, or HK terrorists.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Two Sub-Saharan individuals attempt to use luggage belonging to a Japanese national to smuggle drugs, but some old guy gets caught up in the scam.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The rule is don’t carry anything for anyone...

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Its a political anti-Japan judgment by Communist PRC. Just another way to attack Japan. Let Sakuragi go free, he is very old, why would he traffick drugs.

I think the judgement has more to do with 3.3 kilograms of methamphetamine rather than anything political.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Tom Young

In China sentenced to death with a reprieve of any kind in general means life in Prison.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why would the Chinese care if the drugs were bound for Japan, unless they saw an opportunity to score political points? Chinese companies, with the approval of the CCP, are the leading international suppliers of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and precursor chemicals used in drug manufacturing, which they sell to Mexico, Eastern Europe and North Korea. The Chinese government sees this as payback for the Opium Wars, and views anything that weakens foreign countries as an economic, political, or social advantage. Amoral doesn't begin to describe the CCP.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Did he go to China specifically to pick up that suitcase? Or did he happen to be in China on a group tour and was approached by the African guys, who then asked him to take the suitcase to Japan? Quite relevant difference.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's possible he is innocent. I have seen some remarkably stupid politicians here, so it wouldn't be that surprising if he did agree to carry a case full of shoes.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

a Nigerian acquaintance asked Sakuragi to bring what appeared to be a suitcase full of shoes with him back to Japan. 

What sort of idiot would do something like this? He knew what was in them and he was a paid courier.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Sakuragi was too careless in agreeing to carry a suitcase full of shoes through an airport in China.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

It means they will hold on the bullet for two years.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"A Malian man was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve"

I have no idea what this means, but I love it.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Its a political anti-Japan judgment by Communist PRC. Just another way to attack Japan. Let Sakuragi go free, he is very old, why would he traffick drugs.

Uh.... the same reasons why anyone would smuggle narcotics...

You are commenting as if seniors don’t need money or they are immune to problems of life.

Does it look suspiciously biased? Yes

Do I think the Chinese government are burning him unfairly because of their negative feelings toward us? Yes

But to speculate that he is innocent solely based on his age is quite a bold assumption.

He was asked by a Nigerian acquaintance to bring in a package full of shoes??

Not sure if he was really that naive and oblivious but I think he should have rejected such request because he now sounds like a gullible old fool.

4 ( +10 / -6 )

He was detained in 2013 when about 3.3 kilograms of methamphetamine was found in his luggage, the court said.

You missed this Ganbare Japan!Today  04:50 pm JST

he is very old, why would he traffick drugs.

He is a courier, a donkey for big 'dineros'. His luck runs out.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Most are executed with a single bullet to the head

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Its a political anti-Japan judgment by Communist PRC. Just another way to attack Japan. Let Sakuragi go free, he is very old, why would he traffick drugs.

-26 ( +5 / -31 )

sakuragi you're disgrace, you are killing you're own countrymen.

-9 ( +4 / -13 )

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