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The amount of illegal drugs seized by Japanese customs in 2020 dropped 43% from the previous year to total about 1,906 kilograms in 733 cases, which were down 30%, the Finance Ministry has announced.

The sharp decline is attributed to entry restrictions implemented in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the annual amount topping 1 ton for the fifth consecutive year and hitting the third-highest level on record, however, the ministry finds the situation “very serious,” a ministry official said.

Looking ahead to the end of the pandemic, the ministry plans to strengthen efforts to crack down on drug smuggling, such as introducing new drug detection equipment.

Of the seized drugs, stimulants — which in Japan typically refers to methamphetamine and amphetamine — accounted for about 800 kilograms, down 69% from the 2019 level but double that of a decade ago.

The seizure of MDMA and other narcotic drugs rose 25%, and that of cannabis jumped 42%.

Although the amount of illicit drugs transported to Japan by air decreased, there was a large-scale maritime smuggling case.

Also in 2020, the number of gold bullion smuggling cases came to 51, down 16%, and the amount of seized gold fell 53% to about 150 kilograms, according to the ministry.

The decrease is believed to be partly thanks to strengthened measures including higher fines following a surge in cases of consumption tax evasion for imported gold.

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