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Japanese nationals jailed for ephedrine smuggling

12.00am 08 September 2017 | News

Two Japanese men, who were part of a drug-smuggling ring importing large quantities of ephedrine hidden in wooden tables, aluminium shelves and plastic cylinders, were sentenced in the Manukau District Court today.

Drug ‘catcher’ Kentaro Hara, 42, was sentenced to 25 months’ jail for attempted possession for supply of a class B drug. Kazuki Keino, 49, who is believed to be the ringleader, was sentenced to 9 years and 4 months’ jail for five importation charges.

Their two counterparts, Masaru Iwai, 45, and Satoshi Someya, 28, were both sentenced to 6 years and 7 months’ jail in November 2016.

Between January and February 2016, Customs intercepted multiple airfreight and mail consignments that hid ephedrine, totalling over 33 kgs. This amount could have produced up to 25 kgs of meth, with a street value of up to $25 million.

The shipments included wooden tables with hollow plastic legs, aluminium shelves, and plastic cylinders sent with ‘fitness equipment’ such as skipping ropes. Customs intelligence and investigations connected these consignments and identified the individuals involved.

Customs Manager Investigations Bruce Berry says the four offenders were part of an elaborate set-up to import the precursor drugs to different addresses in Auckland, collect it, and then supply it to their networks to turn into methamphetamine.

“Customs targets all drug shipments – whatever the commodity or country it’s from. We may not always act immediately, as our main aim is using seizure information to build a bigger intelligence picture and take down the entire drug syndicate. This is a good result.”

If you have suspicions about someone who may be smuggling drugs by getting it delivered to unsuspecting addresses, call 0800 4 CUSTOMS in confidence or Crime Stoppers.