Vancouver musician arrested in Japan for alleged drug smuggling

No laughing matter: Powerclown singer could face lengthy prison sentence overseas

A 44-year-old Vancouver musician is facing the possibility of lengthy jail time after being arrested on suspicion of attempting to smuggle drugs into Japan by hiding them in his guitar case.

Daniel Burton Whitmore, a member of local bands Death Sentence, Scum Element and the clown-themed Iron Maiden tribute act Powerclown, has been charged with violating the Stimulants Control Law and the Japanese Customs Law.

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According to reports by Japanese media outlets, 9.8 kilograms of “stimulant drugs” were found in a hidden compartment of the guitar case and a number of tea canisters after Whitmore arrived at Narita International Airport Dec. 11 on a flight from Vancouver.

According to Japanese police, the drugs carry a street value of nearly 630 million yen (approximately $7 million Canadian).

Whitmore apparently told Japanese customs he was visiting the country for sightseeing purposes, but officials became suspicious when they noticed the man was sweating profusely and his guitar case was unusually heavy.

On Dec. 9, before travelling to Japan, Whitmore posted on his Facebook page: “Are you an Asian drug dealer? Because you’re bringing me down…”

Powerclown guitarist “Sketchy Clown” posted on the band’s Facebook page that “flags were flying half-mast at the Powerclown circus tent” for Whitmore, who went by the stage name Dicksee Di’anno.

“I assure you, any frowns we are wearing are real. Painted on or not… While none of us clowns condone Dicksee's actions, or recommend anyone else attempting something this foolish, we do hope for the best for our grease-painted pal.”

If convicted, Whitmore faces a potentially lengthy jail sentence in Japan’s notoriously strict prison system, which has received condemnation from various human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Asia Human Rights Watch Prison Project.

According to a report on Japanese prisons, most convicted foreigners are sentenced to Fuchu Prison, located in a suburb of Tokyo. In addition to foreigners, with more than 40 nationalities represented, Fuchu Prison also houses various members of the Yakuza, an organized crime syndicate originating in Japan .

It is unclear if the Canadian government will seek Whitmore’s extradition.

The Courier emailed the Canadian Consulate in Tokyo and received the following response: “Global Affairs Canada is aware of the arrest of a Canadian citizen in Japan. Canadian officials in Tokyo are providing consular assistance to the individual and the family. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, further details on this case cannot be released.”

The Government of Canada website states that penalties for criminal activities, particularly for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs, are severe in Japan.

  • “In many cases, suspects are denied oral or written communication with anyone other than their lawyer or a Canadian consular representative for an extended period.”
  • “If you are arrested, you can be held for up to 23 days, with a possibility of extension, without being formally charged with a crime… Under Japanese law, the police are allowed to begin their initial questioning before you see a lawyer.
  • “There is no bail in the Japanese legal system before indictment. After indictment, bail is rarely granted to foreigners without residence in Japan.”
  • “An application for transfer can be submitted only after you have been convicted and sentenced, and there are no legal processes pending.”
  • “Japanese authorities require that at least one third of your sentence be served in Japan before a transfer will be considered.”

Full disclosure, Courier reporter John Kurucz played with Whitmore in the band Powerclown. He was unaware of Whitmore’s activities.


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