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More Cocaine Found Near Tokyo Brings Cache to $70 Million

Two more backpacks of smuggled cocaine were found washed ashore near Tokyo yesterday in a cache said to be the largest discovered in Japan.

The backpacks, each containing 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of cocaine wrapped in waterproof tape, were found separately by residents on beaches in Yokosuka city and the town of Hayama, said a spokesman for the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department’s drug and firearms enforcement division, who asked not to be named, citing department policy.

The discovery adds to four similar backpacks found on a beach in Yokosuka on Nov. 19, which contained a combined 78 kilograms of cocaine, the spokesman said. The total amount now found is worth about 7.1 billion yen ($70 million), based on a police estimate that puts the drug’s market value at 60,000 yen per gram.

Yokosuka, home to a U.S. Navy base, is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Tokyo. Japanese police haven’t contacted the Navy as there’s no indication of a U.S. connection so far, the spokesman said.

A 74-year-old fisherman found the first four backpacks, with a total of 78 packets weighing 1 kilogram each, according to the police. The backpacks had plastic bottles tied to them, with fluorescent rods inside. The two packs found yesterday appear to have separated from the previous four, and police aren’t expecting to find more, the spokesman said.

It’s the first time cocaine has washed up in Yokosuka, although police have found the drugs ketamine and marijuana previously, the spokesman said. Stimulants including methamphetamine, the most popular illegal drug in Japan, often wash up in large amounts around the country, he said.

Organized Crime

Police seized a total of 6.6 kilograms of cocaine in Japan last year, accounting for less than 2 percent of all drugs seized by weight, according to a report by the National Police Agency.

Japanese organized-crime groups involved in drug smuggling may be working with transnational crime syndicates in Mexico and elsewhere, as there has been a rise in methamphetamine originating from Mexico, the U.S. State Department said in a report in March.

The cocaine found this week was probably manufactured in South America, police said. It was the biggest discovery of the drug so far in Japan, according to public broadcaster NHK.

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