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Japanese custom officials discovered more than $70,000 worth of marijuana being sent to an APO box at Yokota Air Base.

Japanese custom officials discovered more than $70,000 worth of marijuana being sent to an APO box at Yokota Air Base. (Michael Dillon/Air Force)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Smugglers used U.S. military mail to bring 3.7 pounds of marijuana into Japan through Yokota Air Base – home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo, according to U.S. and Japanese officials.

“Japanese customs officials at Yokota Air Base discovered marijuana being sent to an APO box in September,” Yokota officials said Tuesday in a statement.

Japan’s National Police Agency and the U.S. military were immediately notified, and Tokyo Metropolitan Police are leading an investigation into the incident, the statement said.

The marijuana, valued at 8.5 million yen, or $71,000, originated in Canada, Japanese broadcaster TBS reported.

The package was sent as unofficial mail to a U.S. servicemember who was unaware of its contents, according to police quoted by Japanese broadcaster NHK. The servicemember handed the package to a Japanese national who passed it to an unemployed Saint Vincent and the Grenadines national at Kodaira Station in Tokyo, according to the NHK report. Both were arrested.

Smugglers have used the military mail system to send drugs across international borders in the past.

In the first nine months of 2012, the Korea Customs Service found 6.6 pounds of drugs, mostly synthetic marijuana, worth $52,100 in mail bound for U.S. servicemembers in South Korea.

In the statement, Yokota officials said they work with Japanese agencies to prevent and investigate any and all forms of potentially illegal activities.

“While third parties may occasionally attempt to circumvent the law, we continually educate our airmen on APO guidelines, vigilance, and the (uniform code of military justice),” the statement said. “We also encourage our airmen to educate their family and friends on APO regulations and guidelines. Should violations occur, they are addressed immediately.”

robson.seth@stripes.com Twitter: @SethRobson1

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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