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Aichi politician seized with 3.3 kg of drugs at Chinese airport pleads innocence

Kyodo

An Aichi Prefecture politician currently detained in China for allegedly trying to smuggle over 3.3 kg of narcotics through a local airport last month has pleaded his innocence to Japanese diplomats, sources said Saturday.

Takuma Sakuragi, 70, a member of the Inazawa Municipal Assembly, was taken into custody Oct. 31 at Baiyun airport, the major transport hub of Guangzhou in southeastern China, during a baggage check.

He told Japanese diplomats who met with him at a local detention center that he is innocent, according to the sources, which are close to the Inazawa assembly.

Sakuragi traveled to Guangzhou on Oct. 29 to conduct business for a trading company he owns. While in China, he apparently met with a Nigerian national who gave him a suitcase containing shoe samples, the sources said.

The sources alleged that the stimulant drugs were concealed in these shoe samples Sakuragi was carrying.

Chinese public security officials said Baiyun airport personnel found Sakuragi in possession of more than 3.3 kg of methamphetamines. They said he was planning to head to Shanghai on a China Southern Airlines flight when he was detained.

According to the Foreign Ministry, drug smugglers in China can face the death penalty. Four Japanese were executed in 2010 by China after being convicted of drug possession charges.

Sakuragi, a fifth-term member of the Inazawa Municipal Assembly, meanwhile told the Japanese diplomats that he has no plan to resign his post, the sources said.