Gold bars found on Taipei-Osaka Vanilla Air flight: report

Tokyo-Tens of kilograms of gold bars that were allegedly being smuggled from Taiwan to Japan were found in a Vanilla Air flight from Taipei to Kansai International Airport, Osaka's main gateway.

Customs authorities in Osaka are investigating the case, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported.

The plane departed from Taiwan early Sunday morning and arrived at Kansai Airport at around 8:30 a.m. During the flight, a flight attendant found a bag in a toilet at the rear of the aircraft, according to unnamed sources cited by the paper.

After the plane arrived in Japan, Osaka police and customs authorities opened the bag and found several gold-like objects. A similar bag was found in another toilet on the aircraft, and the two bags were later confirmed to contain gold bars, the sources said.

A representative of the budget carrier told the Japanese paper, however, that it was still unclear what was inside the bags.

"Some suspicious objects were discovered," and Vanilla Air will continue to monitor the situation and step up surveillance, the unidentified representative was quoted as saying.

Vanilla Air, headquartered at Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, is wholly owned by All Nippon Airways.

There have been several reported cases of gold smuggling from foreign countries to Japan, including to Kansai Airport, as smugglers seek to evade Japan's 8 percent sales tax normally levied on gold when it enters the country, according to the Sankei Shimbun report.

In April, customs officers at Kansai Airport confiscated more than 100 kilograms of gold bars brought in by 10 travelers from Malaysia. The gold bars were worth over 500 million yen (US$4.46 million) in the domestic market, according to the report.

Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council