• Kyodo, JIJI

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The amount of illegal drugs seized by customs authorities hit a record in 2019 and topped 3 tons for the first time, government data showed Wednesday.

The 3,318 kilograms seized in 1,046 cases, compared with 1,493 kg in 871 cases in 2018, was the result of more stimulants being found, according to the data released by the Finance Ministry.

The weight and the number of cases in which stimulants were seized more than doubled from a year earlier, logging 2,570 kg in 425 cases. The amount, surpassing 1 ton for the fourth straight year, is worth around ¥154.2 billion.

Of the total detected cases, 204, or 48 percent, involved imports from other Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia. A Finance Ministry official said the data indicated that Japan has become “a major market” in the world of illegal drugs, as street prices for stimulants in the nation are higher than those overseas.

The ministry plans to strengthen crackdowns on illegal drugs by introducing new testing equipment and promoting information sharing with the authorities of other countries. The ministry’s Customs and Tariff Bureau on Wednesday signed a memorandum of cooperation on smuggling prevention with the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations in a bid to intensify crackdowns on illegal drug trading by sea.

The data showed that the amount of cocaine seized more than quadrupled to 638 kg, with the ministry saying that the smuggling of illegal drugs to Japan has been an “expanding trend” and the situation is “extremely serious.”

Meanwhile, discoveries of gold bars sharply fell to 319 kg in 61 seizures in the year, down 84 percent and 94 percent from the previous year, respectively, reflecting a series of emergency countermeasures and stricter penalties.

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