Police in Japan arrest British man suspected of importing gummy sweets laced with ecstasy

Julian Ryall
·2-min read
Authorities said the drugs had an estimated street value of £1,550 - PHILIP FONG/AFP
Authorities said the drugs had an estimated street value of £1,550 - PHILIP FONG/AFP

A British national has been arrested by police in Japan on suspicion of smuggling sweets laced with ecstasy into the country by international mail. 

Police in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, confirmed on Wednesday that Matthew Owens, 33, is suspected of importing 53 gummy sweets laced with ecstasy.

Mr Owens, of Allendale in Northumberland, is alleged to have been working with an accomplice in the Netherlands to send the drugs to Japan.

The sweets were allegedly placed in a letter sent by international mail but were intercepted at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport on July 5, with authorities telling local media that ecstasy is usually detected in powder or pill form and that it is “uncommon” for the drug to be imported concealed as sweets. 

Authorities said the drugs had an estimated street value of £1,550. 

Mr Owens, a graduate of Cambridge University who was working in a children’s day care centre in the city of Tokorozawa, was taken into custody on August 13, according to police in Saitama. The authorities have not confirmed whether he has admitted the accusations. 

In a statement, an official of the British Embassy in Tokyo told The Telegraph: “We are supporting a British person after their arrest and we are in contact with the local authorities.” 

Japan takes a far less tolerant view of illegal drugs than other nations and smuggling ecstasy is likely to lead to a custodial sentence.

Authorities are also likely to look into whether suspects have used a similar tactic to import drugs previously. 

Drug use is still relatively rare in Japan, with a mere 57 arrests for possession of ecstasy in 2018 and 3,762 arrests for cannabis. Both totals, however, were more than double the figures reported in 2013 and there is growing concern that more young Japanese are dabbling in narcotics.