Japanese former politician, 76, gets life for smuggling methamphetamine into China

Japanese former politician, 76, gets life for smuggling methamphetamine into China
More than six years after being caught trying to smuggle drugs [1 ] into China, a 76-year-old Japanese former politician has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Takuma Sakuragi, a former city assemblyman from Japan’s Aichi prefecture, was detained at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in southern China’s Guangdong province. He was arrested in October 2013 while in possession of 3.3kg (7.3lbs) of methamphetamine

Sakuragi’s two accomplices were also found guilty by the Guangzhou First Intermediate People’s Court. Both were from West Africa, the Southern Metropolis News reported on Friday.

Also Read: How drug dealers make a living in Southeast (DailyTrust)

The Court sentenced Aly Yattabare from Mali to the death. His sentence was suspended for two years. On the other hand, the court sentenced Mohamed Soumah from Guinea to life, the report said.

The three men were first tried in Guangzhou in August 2014. Photo: Weibo
The three men were first tried in Guangzhou in August 2014. Photo: Weibo

From delay to swift justice

The three men were first tried in Guangzhou in August 2014, and all pleaded not guilty. However, the court failed to reach a verdict and the case dragged on due to the absence of suitable translators, the report said.

Sakuragi’s lawyer, Chen Weixiong, described the sentencing as “unjust and unfair”.

“The court delayed the case 20 times and postponed the verdict for five years. How did the city court come up with a verdict that it was unable to reach five years ago without any new evidence?”

Chen said his client was in poor health, having undergone abdominal surgery in May. As a result, he had lost half of his teeth over the past five years behind bars.

The lawyer vowed to appeal the case.

How China is fuelling an African drug crisis

When the police detained him at the airport in 2013, Sakuragi told police that a Nigerian acquaintance tricked him into carrying the suitcase with drugs. The acquaintance was helping him recover debts of more than US$700,000.

The former politician said he had been given the case by Yattabare, who was acting on behalf of the unnamed Nigerian.  The police arrested Yattabare and Soumah in November 2013 at their flat in Guangzhou. With them, they found more narcotics and drug-related paraphernalia.

Also Read: ‘We execute drug dealers’ – Saudi Arabia defends death sentence of Nigerian woman

China has tough laws to deter drug trafficking. Those found guilty of smuggling, selling, transporting or producing more than 50 grams of an illegal substance face a prison term of 15 years to life. Sometimes, they may even get the death penalty.

In January, an appeal court in China sentenced Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg [4] to death. He was sentenced for his part in an international methamphetamine-smuggling operation based in the Chinese port city of Dalian. He had originally been sentenced to 15 years behind bars [5]

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