According to a report by Sankei Shimbun, dozens of gold bars were found in the bathrooms of a Vanilla Air flight from Taipei to Kansai International Airport, which authorities suspect could be evidence of a smuggling ring.
According to a witness, the flight took off from Taipei in the early morning hours on Sunday and when it arrived at 8:30 a.m. at Osaka's Kansai International Airport, flight attendants discovered suspicious bags in two of the plane's lavatories. Osaka Prefecture Police and Osaka Customs then opened the bags and found both contained gold bars.
A Vanilla Air spokesman said that it is not yet clear exactly what the items in the bag were, except to say that "there were suspicious items, and the alert will be strengthened."
The report by Sankei Shimbun pointed out that smuggling gold from abroad into Japan has become a common occurrence in an attempt to avoid the eight percent tariff it would normally be subject to. Numerous cases of gold smuggling at Kansai Airport have been reported in recent years.
For example, in April of this year 10 passengers arriving from Malaysia were caught smuggling more than 100 kilograms of gold with a market value of more than 500 million yen (US$4,380,00).
Vanilla Air, a low-cost carrier under All Nippon Airways (ANA), has been no stranger to controversy recently. On June 5, disabled writer Hideto Kijima was forced to crawl up 17 stairs to board his Vanilla Air flight because there was no ramp and the crew refused to allow others to assist him in boarding. The matter attracted a great deal of criticism worldwide and Vanilla Air later issued an apology.
On June 10, upon arrival at Narita International Airport, 34 passengers from the flight originating in Hong Kong were put on a bus that took them directly to domestic arrivals. Though Vanilla Air staff were able to locate 24 and have them processed through immigration, customs and quarantine, 10 were able to bypass Japan immigration entirely. In April 2016, 159 passengers from Taiwan also did not clear immigration due to a mistake by Vanilla at Narita.