Another drug swallower caught

A Polish man was held in custody at Auckland Airport while he
A Polish man was held in custody at Auckland Airport while he

Customs flushed out a man who swallowed almost $400,000 of drugs at Auckland International Airport during the weekend.

A Polish man was held in custody while he "passed" 74 plastic pellets containing a total of 370 grams of crystal methamphetamine.

The drugs were worth between $220,000 and $370,000 on the street, officials estimated.

New Zealand Customs acting comptroller John Secker said internal smuggling was the polite name, but the term "swallowers" was more descriptive.

In the past 18 months Customs had caught 10 drug "mules" trying to bring a range of narcotics into the country, inside their bodies. That compared with one for all of 2009.

Mr Secker said the likelihood of successful smuggling like this was low and getting lower.

"These people are paid sums of money which are frankly pathetic compared to the money the criminal syndicate bosses are making. So for a relative pittance they are risking their lives in a very real sense."

Mr Secker said a number of these mules had died in various parts of the world in recent years.

"While we are pleased at the success we have had in catching them here in New Zealand, the whole thing is a sick and senseless tragedy."

Customs Minister Maurice Williamson said swallowers trying to make money out of misery in New Zealand should expect to be caught.

Mr Secker said the types of drugs being swallowed by smugglers had included cocaine and opium, as well as crystal methamphetamine.

"There has also been a variety of countries the swallowers have arrived from - including South America, Thailand, South Africa, Iran, Dubai, and the United States.

"So it's clear that a wider range of organised criminal networks are being attracted to the New Zealand drug market and are attempting to set up here.

"And they are callously sacrificing these mules, of various nationalities, to be caught at the border and suffer the consequences."

- NZPA

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