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Japan tightens border controls against smuggled gold and drugs

Customs officials race to keep up as visitor numbers surge

Japan has introduced stricter penalties against gold smuggling, as well as advanced metal detection technology at airports.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- At a Tokyo customs inspection site in late April, airfreight from China to Japan's main international gateway, Narita Airport, is being carefully examined. Gloved officials pull wallets from packed boxes, checking each one closely, running through various procedures to determine whether they might be counterfeit, and whether the place-of-origin labels match up. 

"It's vital to check a large number of ordinary-looking packages to spot suspicious items," says Shohei Niwayama, deputy chief of the Tokyo Customs Enforcement Division.

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