TOKYO - Israeli involvement in criminal activity in East Asian countries is causing serious damage to the country’s image and could also threaten national security, Israeli consul in Tokyo Moshe Harel told Ynet.
Some 30 Israelis are currently being held in Japanese prisons for various offenses, and a growing number of Israelis are involved in drug trafficking and selling forged passports in the country. Just two months ago two Iranians were caught with fake Israeli passports.
According to Harel, this growing trend has increased Japanese authorities’ fear of Israeli-initiated crime in the country, which in turn is making it harder for Israelis to enter Japan.
As a result, every Israeli who arrives in Japan is
regarded as a suspect and goes through a detailed interrogation.
The passport trade phenomenon is not new to the Far East. This is mainly connected to the fact that many Israelis who remain in the country after their tourist visa expires report that their passport has been lost, whereby they receive a temporary document which they use to obtain an extended tourist visa.
Innocent Israelis get in trouble
Eight Israelis are currently being held or awaiting trial for drug-trafficking offenses, while some 20 others are being detained for offenses related to the illegal selling of paintings, gifts, or clothes out of street-market stalls - offenses that could bring a prison sentence of up to 4 years.
Harel said some stall owners also lure innocent Israelis to perform illicit errands for them.
“Stall owners receive their goods by mail from Israel, Amsterdam,
or India," he said. "Occasionally, those who pick up the packages are not aware of their content. Japanese customs personnel sometimes manage to detect packages containing illegal goods beforehand, and then arrest those who come to pick them up.”
Harel said the profit margin for drug trafficking in Japan is considerable, as 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of Marijuana, which costs a few hundred shekels in Israel, can be sold for thousands of dollars in Tokyo.
“Apart from issuing warnings, we at the embassy cannot do anything until an Israeli is arrested,” he said. “Then we try to assist, but in any case we cannot interfere in the legal process.”
Harel said many young Israelis are tempted to travel to Japan by deceitful advertisements in Israeli newspapers that promise an opportunity to earn a quick buck.
“In practice, these innocent people (who come to Japan) work 12 hours a day, 30 days a month, and earn only USD 1,000 monthly after deducting the high living expenses in Japan,” he said. “After they get in trouble, their families pay thousands of dollars to come to Japan and hire a local attorney.”