By Nick Thomas
The ingenuity of criminals never fails to amaze me. Take smuggling, for instance. Smugglers can be incredibly resourceful at packing contraband into extraordinarily tight places.
And while often ingenious, smugglers can also be mind-bogglingly inept. Consider the woman traveling through the Bangkok airport back in 2010, who was easily caught trying to smuggle a drugged, live baby tiger in a suitcase full of stuffed, toy tigers. The former, of course, was easily detected during a routine luggage X-ray.
So far this year, there have been some interesting attempts at smuggling along these lines.
In April, a Las Vegas man was sent to prison for two years for trying to smuggle dozens of dead green iguanas into the US from Mexico. They were packed in coolers and hidden (obviously not very effectively) beneath some fish. Iguana meat is apparently served in some traditional Central American dishes. So next time you order tacos, better make sure those chunky, green flecks are peppers.
Also this year, a drug sniffer dog helped border officers at the Calgary airport to discover 60 kilograms of khat being smuggled in from the United Kingdom. And in this case, the perpetrator clearly hadn’t read the smugglers guidebook: Any smuggler worth his weight in contraband should know that law enforcement pooches have no trouble sniffing out khat.
Less potent than amphetamine, khat is a controlled-substance in many western countries, even Canada. According to the botanical experts at Wikipedia, khat is “a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Amongst communities from these areas, khat chewing has a long history… as a custom dating back thousands of years.”
I know dogs will be reassured to learn that one of their favorite pastimes has historical validation.
In another recent incident, a 25-year-old Iranian man was given a seven year sentence for trying to smuggle methamphetamine through the Dubai airport. It was hidden in a microwave oven.
“Excuse me Sir, is that a microwave under your coat?” asked the observant customs officer. Call me peculiar, but I try to remain inconspicuous when traveling abroad and generally leave large kitchen appliances at home.
Meanwhile, over in the Philippines, onion smuggling is apparently big business. Farmers are claiming that smuggled onions from China and India cost them some $60 million dollars a year. But you have to wonder how hard it would be to catch onion smugglers – surely you could smell them miles away?
Back here in the US, cigarette smuggling is on the rise due mainly to the tax disparity in some states. For instance, in Missouri the tax is a low 17 cents per pack, but in other states it’s much higher (a whopping $4.35 in New York). So, buying in bulk in one state and selling in another can lead to big profits despite the trifling detail of being illegal.
This didn’t stop a man and woman from attempting to smuggle nearly 15,000 packs into Maryland this year. In fact, they tried it three times, were caught each time, and fined.
The fines are not cheap, either. For instance, a new law aimed at people trying to smuggle smokes out of Virginia now will fine anyone “who possesses, with intent to distribute, more than 5,000 (25 cartons) tax-paid cigarettes” according to the Virginia Gazette. So presumably, if you just stick to smuggling 5,000 cigarettes at a time, you should be okay.
As long as citizens continue to crave items that are illicit or expensive, smuggling will always be with us, even if it’s on a small, localized scale. Consider the Oregon man who was discovered in early June smuggling his 96-lb girlfriend into his apartment complex by stuffing her in a large, rolling suitcase. The woman had previously been banned from the building for being disruptive, and he clearly desired her company.
Although luggage would certainly not be my first mode of transport choice, I admit it’s probably better to arrive at a destination alive and bent in a suitcase, rather than depart dead and dissected in one.
Nick Thomas has written for more than 200 magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Christian Science Monitor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Notice about comments:
- Most Viewed
- Sampit shooting leads to attempted murder charges
- Andrews football coach resigns
- Georgetown police name robbery suspect
- POLICE BLOTTER: Disturbing discovery
- Pizza Hut to return to Georgetown
- Three robberies, same MO, in three days
- Obituaries, May 15, 2013
- SLED: Former Midway Fire spokesman admits $36,000 thefts
- POLICE BLOTTER: One dead, one sick horse
- POLICE BLOTTER: Dog dragged as punishment