Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Japan roasted for planting drugs to test airport sniffer dogs

Dispatchonline

2008/05/27

Japanese customs officers were sharply criticised today for planting 142 grams of cannabis in the bag of a Hong Kong passenger to test a sniffer dog that then failed to find the drugs.

The unsuspecting Cathay Pacific passenger walked out of Tokyo’s Narita International Airport with the drugs after an officer stuffed it into the side pocket of a black suitcase to test the animal.

The unauthorized test on Sunday went embarrassingly wrong when the dog failed to detect the cannabis and the officer responsible forgot which bag he had put it in.

An appeal had to be issued asking the passenger to return the drugs. The official involved was reprimanded for planting the drugs.

Officials said today that the drugs had been recovered but did not give details of whether the passenger involved was traced or whether he or she contacted customs officers to return the cannabis.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee said the incident was a breach of all customs protocol and said the government would express its concern to Japanese officials.

The executive director of the Hong Kong Travel Industry Council, Joseph Tung, said such acts would endanger passengers and said a strong letter or protest would be written to the Japanese government.

“We are shocked at this,” Tung told the government-run radio station RTHK.

”Such training exercises should be stopped at once. It is totally unacceptable.”

A spokeswoman for Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd also expressed concern over the incident and said the airline should be informed of any such drill or exercise in the future.

The 38-year-old Japanese customs officer responsible for the planting of the drugs told reporters in Tokyo the dogs had always been able to find the drugs when similar exercises had been done in the past.

The officer was quoted by a television network as saying: “I knew that using passengers’ bags is prohibited, but I did it because I wanted to improve the sniffer dog’s ability.” - Sapa

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