gold nuggets
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Gold nuggets
Pair allegedly smuggled four tons of gold into Japan in 50 shipments over past two years

Japanese police arrested on Wednesday two Israeli men living in Tokyo for attempting to smuggle 220 kilograms of gold nuggets in 2017 -- the largest haul seized in the country.

They were also held for alleged violation of Japan's customs law by successfully smuggling by air a further amount of about 200 kg of gold -- worth some 924 million yen ($8.42 million) -- disguised as auto parts from Hong Kong, in November 2017, and evading some 70 million yen in consumption tax.

The police believe the men -- Reuben Rosen, 58, an executive at a precious metals importer, and David Cohen, 55 -- belong to a group suspected of similarly smuggling a total of some 4 tons of gold in 50 batches since March 2017, and selling it in Japan.

Investigators believe gold nuggets were bought by a third party in Hong Kong and that the two Tokyo residents were receivers of them. The 220-kg nuggets, worth 1.02 billion yen, were found by customs officials at Narita airport, near Tokyo, on Nov. 3, 2017.

Rosen has admitted the allegations while Cohen has denied some of them, according to police.

Following Japan's consumption tax hike to 8 percent from 5 percent in 2014, the country has seen a rise in the number of gold smuggling cases aimed at evading the tax, which is applied to imports of the precious metal, according to the Finance Ministry.