Golden ticket lands Japanese businessman 10-year sentence in Vietnam

By Viet Dung   April 13, 2017 | 11:44 pm GMT+7

The man hired a goldsmith to cast seven solid gold Buddah statues worth nearly $300,000.

A Japanese businessman working for a recruitment company in Vietnam was sentenced to 10 years in prison for smuggling gold by a court in Hanoi on Wednesday.

Iwamura Masakazu, 46, pleaded guilty to a charge of trafficking several gold Buddah statues out of Vietnam. His accomplice, Kitada Takayoshi, 34, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Masakazu was accused of hiring people to cast seven Buddah statues using gold worth nearly VND7 billion ($300,000) and coating them with silver to deceive customs officials to smuggle them to Japan for sale, according to the court.

Masakazu was a director of the Japan-based RG Innovation Company, which brokers labor contracts for Vietnamese workers who want to work in Japan.

Masakazu colluded with Takayoshi to buy the gold from a jewelry company named Sinh Dien Gold and Gemstones Co Ltd in Bac Ninh Province, 45km (28 miles) northeast of Hanoi, in July, 2016. He asked the firm's owner to cast the statues and said that he would return to collect them a month later.

Masakazu later sent Takayoshi to Vietnam to collect the order and asked him to coat the seven gold statues in silver to deceive Vietnamese customs officers. However, on August 3, 2016, customs officials at Noi Bai International Airport discovered the statues in Takayoshi’s luggage, and arrested him.

In court, the two defendants pleaded guilty and asked the judges to consider letting them to be tried in Japan,  a request that was denied.