A Hong Kong Airlines flight attendant has been arrested in Tokyo for allegedly smuggling gold bars into Japan, Apple Daily reports.
The suspect was on flight HX606 that left Hong Kong International Airport at 2:20 a.m. on Tuesday and arrived at Narita Airport at 7:40 a.m.
She was arrested after the undeclared gold bars were found in her possesion during an X-ray scan at the customs checkpoint of the airport.
The amount of gold seized from her was not immediately known.
A spokesperson for the airlines confirmed that one of their flight attendants had been arrested. An investigation is being conducted as to how she was able to clear customs in Hong Kong.
Cases of gold smuggling in Japan have risen after the authorities raised the sales tax on gold to 8 percent from 5 percent.
According to news reports in Japan, there were only around a dozen gold smuggling cases every year in the past.
But from July 2015 to June 2016, the number of cases of gold smuggling surged to 294, half of which originated from Hong Kong. That amounted to 610 million yen (US$5.4 million) in evaded taxes.
The Japanese customs authorities have been stepping up its crackdown on gold smuggling. Over the past few months, notices in Chinese and Korean have been put up around the airport to highlight the message.
The notices, which carry gold bar images, warn that passengers must declare any gold items that they are bringing into Japan and pay the applicable taxes.
Under Japanese laws, smuggling gold is a serious crime and convicted offenders face up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 5 million yen.
But with a difference of almost HK$30,000 per kilogram in the price of gold between Hong Kong and Japan, smugglers believe the quick profit is worth the risk.
In December 2015, six members of a Japanese triad gang were arrested for smuggling 112 kilograms of gold into Japan via Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture, on a private jet. The amount of gold seized was estimated to be worth around HK$33 million.
Criminal gangs reportedly organize free tour groups of up to 10 people each to smuggle gold across Japan’s borders, Apple Daily said.
Last month, a smuggler offered a family of four from Tin Shui Wai HK$3,000 each person plus free air tickets and accommodation in exchange for bringing some HK$1.4 million worth of gold into Japan.
The family turned down the deal and the smuggler’s gold bars have gone missing. Investigations are ongoing.
– Contact us at [email protected]