TOKYO -- Seeking to curb a growing outbreak of gold smuggling, Japan's Ministry of Finance will install metal detector gates at the customs areas of airports with heavy international traffic, such as Narita and Haneda.
Currently, travelers entering Japan suspected of smuggling are probed by customs officials with handheld metal detectors. That process is causing congestion, however, as visitors to Japan increase.
Those suspected of illegally bringing gold into Japan will be asked to pass through the metal detector gates, which will also be placed in ports of call for overseas cruise ships. Officials will adjust amounts of metal to be detected so that the devices will not strand travelers by setting off the alarm over their wristwatches, for example.
Japan penalized 294 cases of gold smuggling in the 12 months leading up to June 2016, a 70% increase year over year. Many cases involved persons hiding gold on their bodies, adding to the urgency of responding to such techniques. Metal detector gates for employees already exist at customs areas, but no such equipment has been installed for ordinary travelers.
Gold smuggling has surged since Japan raised the consumption tax to 8% from 5% in April 2014. When smugglers sell gold, they can pocket the amounts equal to the 8% levy on the metal because the buyer pays the tax.