Israeli accused of drug smuggling in Japan found dead in prison

The prisoner's defense attorney claimed that he was held in conditions that did not suit his medical state and that the High Court refused to transfer him from there despite his complaints.

 DRUGS CONFISCATED during Magen Hanegev. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
DRUGS CONFISCATED during Magen Hanegev.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

An Israeli citizen who was incarcerated in a detention facility near Tokyo after being accused in 2020 of smuggling drugs to Japan, was found dead under circumstances that have not yet been clarified, according to the country's media. 

His defense attorney, Takashi Takano, stated that the prisoner, Amnon-Hanoch Tenenbaum, 60, was held in conditions unsuitable for his weak medical condition, which included heart disease, and that the Yokohama District Court refused to transfer him despite his complaints. According to the report, he was found lying dead on his bed in a solitary cell. 

The circumstances of the death are being investigated, and the possibility that he committed suicide is also being investigated.

Tenenbaum was a former resident of Haifa and lived in Japan in the years before his arrest. According to the report, he underwent heart surgery in Israel, about a month before Japanese police arrested him for smuggling a large number of illegal stimulants to Japan in November 2020. He complained of poor health immediately after the arrest, but his requests to the police and the detention facility starting in March 2021 for medical assistance were not answered.

Last month, Tenenbaum's defense attorney asked the court to suspend his arrest based on his worsening condition so that he can receive adequate medical treatment - but this request too was also rejected.

Defense attorney Takano said that Tenenbaum was forbidden to see anyone - which also contributed to his mental distress. His defense claims that he is innocent.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a visit to Japan in August 2022 (credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY) Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a visit to Japan in August 2022 (credit: DEFENSE MINISTRY)

When did this happen?

The seizure of the drugs allegedly attributed to Tenenbaum and his alleged accomplice, 42-year-old Ofer Menachem Leibowitz, took place on September 21, 2020.

Customs officials in Japan then found 237 kg of stimulant drugs on board a cargo ship docked at the port of Yokohama, and the authorities estimated it's worth $100 million, which is about 15 billion yen. They were buried in bags that were placed inside machines for the production of plastic products. The police in Japan noted at the time that this was the second-largest seizure that year.

After the discovery, the drugs were removed from the machines and the shipment was sent to the intended address in Chiba Prefecture, about 40 kilometers from Tokyo. Police arrested Tenenbaum, who was then living in the Minato district in Tokyo, and Leibowitz after they picked up the shipment on November 8.

The detention center in Yokohama said that "Tenenbaum was found lying on a bed in a solitary cell with an elastic band of hair stretched from under his chin to his head, which suggests that he may have committed suicide."