Woman arrested at Ben-Gurion airport with 44 iPhones strapped to her legs

Forget drugs, animals and bomb parts – the new hot commodity of choice for smugglers is apparently the Apple iPhone. At Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, a passenger was caught trying to smuggle 44 of the smartphones into the country.

The Israeli woman was returning from London when security guards noticed the phones on the screen of their full-body scanner. Apparently, the passenger had dressed herself in layers of traditional Georgian attire, but failed to realize that the scanners would be able to see right through them.

When she was scanned, the operators were amazed to see the 44 phones in her stockings. After the catch, she was released and a decision will be made later this week whether to indict her.

At least the iPhones were relatively “normal” – other smugglers have tried to import live pigeons, a dead relative and a monkey.

[Photo: AP]

Airport survey reveals huge trade in bushmeat

Researchers studying customs seizures at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris have discovered that smuggling of illegal meat is a huge problem.

Up to 270 tons of illegal meat may be coming into Europe from Africa every year. The study made its estimate based on customs searches over a 17 day period involving 134 passengers from 14 African countries. Nine people were caught with bushmeat weighing a total of 188 kilos (414 lbs). The defendants had a variety of dead animals in their bags, including primates, crocodiles, and rodents. Some were protected species.

Bushmeat, the common term for animals hunted in the African countryside for food, makes up to 80% of protein and fat in the diet of rural Africans. Much of the hunting is for rodents and deer that aren’t endangered, but this practice has also led to some species being pushed onto the endangered species list or becoming locally extinct. Importing bushmeat is illegal in Europe, but the taste for exotic foods, or nostalgia for good home cooking, has led to a major trade in wild animals.

While it’s not a headline grabber like discovering a shipment of human heads, officials say bushmeat smuggling poses a health risk and contributes to wildlife extinction.

Photo courtesy Amcaja via Wikimedia Commons.

Women try to smuggle dead relative onto flight

We talk a lot here at Gadling about annoying airline passengers, from the guy who smashes our knees by reclining his seat back as far as it can go, to the self-righteous fellow who simply must convert us before the plane lands.

Two women in England have them all beat–they tried to smuggle a dead body on board. The unnamed women were stopped at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport on Saturday as they wheeled their “sleeping” relative up to the gate for a flight to Germany. Airport officials became suspicious and when they began to ask questions about the 91 year-old man, the duo’s story quickly unraveled.

By covering the man with a blanket and putting sunglasses on him, they apparently thought they could slip by security. Perhaps they were inspired by the Australian who got a bag labeled “bomb” past security or the United flight that had a stowaway scorpion.

The two suspects, who the police have identified only as women aged 41 and 66 from Oldham in Greater Manchester, have been charged with failing to report on death and have been released on bail pending an investigation and, most likely, a trial.

Dulles customs agents arrest man for his coke and chicken smuggle trick

Washington Dulles customs agents arrested a man last week for trying to smuggle cooked chicken into the US stuffed with cocaine. The haul was just 60 grams, but that is still worth $4,300 on the street.

While smuggling cocaine isn’t too rare, customs officials do come across new methods every week.

Of course, smuggling your stash in cooked chicken is particularly stupid, as department of agriculture cops are always on the lookout for meat in your luggage. You might as well wear a sign telling them you are a smuggler.

Some other wacky finds at the border we’ve covered here on Gadling:

My new favorite show: Locked Up Abroad

If you haven’t had a chance, I highly recommend you check out my new favorite show, Locked Up Abroad, on the National Geographic Channel. I stumbled across it recently and have not been able to stop watching since. Each episode chronicles the real-life stories of young men and women who have been incarcerated while traveling in countries including Venezuela, Mexico, Nepal and Thailand. As you might guess, the arrests frequently involve drugs, although other incidents include a kidnapping by paramilitaries in Colombia and gold smuggling in Nepal.

Using first-hand interviews, each story unfolds as the protagonist chronicles a series of bad decisions and rationalizations that led to their eventual arrest. What starts in many cases as a free all-expenses-paid holiday, a chance for “adventure” and an opportunity to make a quick buck quickly turns into an all-too-real nightmare. They describe endless days waiting in isolated holding cells, confusing foreign justice systems and getting caught in the crossfire of deadly prison gang wars. Interestingly enough, not all episodes involve prison – in one of my favorite episodes so far, an American sets out on a motorcycle trip across South America, only to be kidnapped at gunpoint by guerillas in Colombia. Not only does he manage to eventually escape, he also refuses to be sent back to the U.S. after his ordeal, choosing to continue his motorcycle trip to its completion. Fascinating television to say the least.

What makes Locked Up Abroad especially compelling for a twenty-something like me with a bad case of wanderlust is that the situations hit very close to home. Granted, I will never be stupid enough to accept an “all-expenses-paid vacation” to South America or try to drive my motorcycle into an area controlled by Colombian guerillas, but I do understand the mindset. Travel can skew our sense of reality, making us crave opportunities to push our boundaries and have truly unique, memorable experiences. That is for most of us, a very healthy instinct – it’s only when it crosses the line between reality and fantasy that it can become horribly serious.

Check out Locked Up Abroad Monday nights at 9pm on the National Geographic Channel.