On the Drug Trafficking Case of Sakuragi Takuma, a Japanese Parliamentary Member
The author briefly introduces a drug trafficking case involving a parliamentary member from the city of Inazawa, Aichi County, Japan, whose name is Sakuragi Takuma. The Author points out that the key factor of this case is to prove whether Mr. Sakuragi possesses the subjective intention to commit a crime, and thinks that the key channel leading to the solution of his case is to thoroughly investigate his email account. The author proposes suggestions to the justice, Mr. Sakuragi’s defending lawyers, the Japanese Consulate General in Guangzhou, the Japanese police, etc.
Gong Chu (Oscar)
Partner, DeHeng Law Offices (Shenzhen)
PhD. In Law, Renmin University of China
Practice scope: Dispute resolution
Mobile: 13590496399 (WeChat)
On the Drug Trafficking Case of Sakuragi Takuma, a Japanese Parliamentary Member
I. Case introduction
Born in 1943, Sakuragi Takuma, a then Japanese parliamentary member, was detained by Chinese police on the suspicion of carrying drugs at an airport in Guangzhou as he was leaving for Japan via Shanghai. After 6 years of detention, on November 8, 2019, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Intermediary People’s Court of Guangzhou in the first instance trial.
The trial court determined that on October 31, 2013, security inspectors at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport had discovered 3289 grams of methamphetamine inside of Sakurgi Takuma’s luggage. The methamphetamine was found inside shoes within the luggage and within a layer of the luggage’s pull-rod. 18 days later, another two foreign suspects were detained by the Guangzhou police on the suspicion of similar charges. The Court ultimately convicted the three foreigners with criminal drug smuggling. Sakuragi Takuma was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Sakuragi Takuma, hereinafter briefed as Sakuragi, was a parliamentary member of Inazawa City, Aichi County, Japan. Sakuragi has firmly claimed throughout the whole prosecution process that he is innocent, and has appealed his case. The author is interested by this point, thus writes this article for analyzing his case.
II. Subjective intention
I hold that the key judgment point in this case is whether Sakuragi had the subjective intention to commit the crime of drug smuggling.
In adopting a theory of crime to analyze the Sakuragi Case, attention should be paid as to whether he had the subjective intention to commit the crime, by the justice, the Chinese defending lawyers, the suspect himself, the family of the suspect, the diplomatic units of Japan in China, the Chinese and foreign medias, etc. While other constitutive elements of the crime are sound and set, they do not ensue discussion herein.
Sakuragi was depicted by his defending lawyers as an extremely honest Japanese man who never tries to offend anybody. Sakuragi’s lawyers described him as a religious man, who was a victim of fraud from a bad investment in Africa some 20 years ago. Sakuragi worked hard on several occasions to recover this investment, but unfortunately he was again defrauded while trying to recover his investment. Ultimately Sakuragi lost sums adding up to more than 700,000.00 US dollars, taking interests lost included. He came to Guangzhou to sign several documents, believing that he would finally be able to take back his fund. He was unexpectedly asked to carry a luggage back to Japan for others, believing that the luggage only contained some platform shoes. He was flabbergasted when drugs were found inside the luggage he was carrying at the airport.
Sakuragi’s defending lawyers argue that the suspect knew nothing and was set up. However, if the lawyers are not able to go deep enough and find a more compelling argument for the suspect, it is likely that the Justice will not be convinced of Sakuragi’s innocence. From the point of view of the Justice, the following facts are insufficient to prove that Sakuragi possessed no subjective intention to commit the crime, whether each item is separately illustrated or put in combination:
A. Mrs. Sakuragi attesting in the court hearing that her husband has a reliable moral quality;
B. Documents related to Sakuragi’s investment in Nigeria, aiming to prove that he invested and was defrauded;
C. Sakuragi making a tearful plea during the court hearing, proving that he was set up;
D. Sakuragi is a Christian, aiming to prove that he has a creed not to do evil;
E. Sakuragi being from a law rule society i.e. Japan, which has a high degree of good faith, aiming to prove that he was unfamiliar with the tricks played by the fraudsters.
Regarding Point A, the justice has difficulty to adopt the witness’ point as his wife is a party in interest. Whether a person with high or low moral quality, does not surely tell whether one will or will not smuggle drugs. Additionally, the justice may be suspicious whether his wife is a conspirator.
Regarding Point B, simply to show the investment documents does not sufficiently prove that he would definitely walk away from the idea of smuggling drugs.
Regarding Point C, combined with that fact that the other two suspects firmly claim that they are innocent as well, Sakuragi’s claims could be seen as a form of collusion reached among the three suspects in the eyes of the justice. Pleading with tears basically would not change the standpoint of the justice, who have seen so many similar conditions from their long-time working experiences.
Regarding Point D, it is logical to assume that recognized religion has a good and positive side. However, being a religious follower does not surely prove that he will not smuggle drugs.
Regarding Point E, living in a society with high degree of mutual trust and good faith does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Sakaragi himself is trustworthy. Chinese justice officials could be unfamiliar with the social conditions and culture of Japan, but a Chinese court would likely rule that naiveness is not an automatic substitute for innocence. 20 years passed from the date when he was 40 years old to when he reached 69 years old, and as a mature citizen with sound mind, he could still not accept the reality that he was defrauded, keeping big hope and confidence that he could recover his fund even from the year 1993 until the year 2013, which is rarely seen.
Is there any other way out for Sakuragi to prove himself without subjective intention to smuggle drugs? How can the justice finally ascertain what truth lies in the mind of the suspect?
Sakuragi’s defending lawyers almost find the breach. That is, the lawyers collected Sakuragi’s laptop which is said to contain a large quantity of emails that were exchanged between the drug dealers and Sakuragi, with which the latter was entrapped.
I recommend that Sakuragi’s defending lawyers should get to the bottom of these emails and cling to them, i.e. they can log in with email address and code with the suspect’s approval, to read and study completely and thoroughly all the emails related to Nigeria.
The justice departments should do the same. They bear the obligation to investigate initiatively whether a criminal suspect possesses the subjective intention, excluding any vague inference. Both the justice and the lawyers should read, download, print, arrange for translation, and add all relevant emails from Sakuragi’s email account to the case file. If the justice officials do not do this on their own initiative, the lawyers should initiatively render this proof to them and emphasize the importance. The lawyers should not only show Sakuragi’s laptop to the Justice and do no further. Sakuragi’s laptop itself does not prove anything except if it stores various kinds of documents related to the case. However, the emails accumulated from all these years are much more vital.
From my experience as a lawyer, I believe that there are many clues to be found within the emails. The more old emails exchanged between the senders and Sakuragi are discovered by investigators, the better. They then are able to understand the whole situation more easily with these letters written in years earlier along with other letters. After reading and studying these letters, an either-or choice can be made: either Sakuragi was truly trying to recover his investment fund, or he was pretending to do so. This analysis will lead to the decision on whether Sakuragi was acting with subjective intention or not.
This is because, for the drug dealing group, it was an accident that Sakuragi was caught red-handed in Guangzhou. Even if he was not caught, he was only responsible for transporting the drugs. A criminal or criminal group, being even uttermost patient and well planned, will be reluctant to spend years setting up a person who they only intend on using for drug transport. Drug dealers and drug deal enterprises typically do not send regular letters via email to certain individuals during the time span of 20 years, 10 years, or 5 years. To make up facts and plots is also time consuming. And all these efforts are only for making him travel to a city in another country to carry back a suitcase of drugs? There are other persons whom the drug dealers can use to do so. It is illogical that the drug dealers operated the way depicted above, centering on setting up Sakuragi.
邮件内容能解答以下问题：1. 尼日利亚投资及被骗是否属实；2. 樱木被骗后一直在追讨投资款是否属实；3. 樱木与对方沟通中有无提及或被告知毒品相关事宜；4. 樱木来广州是否仅为了追讨投资款。
The emails can answer these questions: A. Whether it is true that Sakuragi invested in Nigeria and was scammed; B. Whether it is true that Sakuragi has been spending all these years chasing after his investment fund; C. Whether Sakuragi mentioned or was told about drug related issues during the communication; D. Whether Sakuragi came to Guangzhou only for recovering the fund of investment.
If after reading and studying all the emails related to Sakuragi’s communication with Nigerians during the 20 years between 1993 and 2013, it is ascertained that his only intention was to recover his investment fund, then Sakuragi moves closer to clearer inference that he did not possess a subjective intention. There could be another possibility, i.e. the Nigerian fraudsters (who can also be drug dealers at the same time) only wanted to further defraud Sakuragi’s money from the start, which would support the logical explanation as to why communication between them was maintained. The drug business gradually expanded to China, where drug carriers are needed to carry the drugs into Japan. It is possible that the fraudsters/drug dealers thought Sakuragi was a good candidate for conducting a drug carry, hence they lured Sakuragi to Guangzhou, using the excuse that he would finally recover his investment fund. He was then asked to bring some luggage back to Japan. If this is the case it could show that Sakuragi lacked subjective intent to transport the drugs. And if after reading all the emails, it is found that the content is not one hundred percent about investment fund recovery or other normal business related activities, or if there are clues betraying his intentions related to drugs, then the defending lawyers should reassess their strategy. Sakuragi’s lawyers will need to visit Sakuragi to talk seriously with him, urging him to face facts and tell the truth, at the very least to his lawyers. If the case reaches this point, Sakuragi’s lawyers should make up a new strategy, as the old one would not work anymore. The new strategy has a wider space to go, especially after Sakuragi reached the age of 75, i.e. in 2018 when, according to China Penal Code he certainly will not be sentenced to death penalty even if he receives a guilty verdict for drug smuggling with an extremely large quantity. The lawyers then can discuss with Sakuragi about whether he should confesses his guilt to the justice, give reports against the other suspects, or tries to perform meritorious deeds, thereby encouraging the Court to give a lighter penalty, labeling his action as a failed attempt that caused slighter harm to the society.
Sakuragi’s visit to China was for personal reasons, hence he is not entitled to diplomatic immunity. The city of Inazawa, where Sakuragi is from, is one of the 70 administration divisions within Aichi County. Inazawa City has a relatively small population (94,000 people in the year of 1986). The diplomatic units in China from Japan in the past 7 years, could assist Sakuragi’s lawyers to investigate and collect evidence there. While the local Japanese police could, with the clue provided by Japanese Consulate General in Guangzhou, file a case to investigate Gemadi Hassan’s wife who was arranged to receive the luggage in Japan. Also, Sakuragi’s wife could be linked to his crime. Should the Japanese police conclude an investigation report saying Sakuragi has never been in connection with drug affairs, this can prove that Sakuragi’s transportation of drugs in Guangzhou was merely accidental, and this could facilitate the Chinese justice to reach that Sakuragi may have been entrapped into drug transportation.
As for the other two suspects Aly Yattabare and Mohamed Soumah, 18.15 grams of methamphetamine was found in their residence when they are detained. Sakuragi and these 2 suspects all firmly claim that they are innocent. There is a possibility that the group recognizes the fact that if they admit to the crime, it is very possible that they may be sentenced to the death penalty. Hence they made the collusion not to confess under any circumstance, or in the alternative, it is possible that all 3 suspects or some of them, knew nothing about Gemadi Hassan’s trick. Gemadi Hassan, staying at large, truly caused more difficulty to the investigation, prosecution and judgment to the justice in Sakuragi’s case.
To supplement, Sakuragi’s lawyers also have an either-or choice: they may have already studied the emails and understood the truth already, or, they really have not read these letters carefully.
Up to this point, the justice must know what to do now.
Edogawa Konan has a famous saying: The truth is always only one! This dictum suits any crime case anywhere in this world. Guilty is set, innocent is also set, which is a basic logic in criminal prosecution. The point of focus in a lawsuit is also the proof. Sakuragi’s email account is a key to unlock the doors of Rashomon, unveiling the very truth.