BERLIN (Reuters) – A 24-year-old Colombian woman was arrested at Frankfurt airport after she was found to be carrying 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of cocaine inside her breasts, German customs officials said on Wednesday.
Airport officials became suspicious after they found fresh operation scars below the woman’s breasts during a search on February 24 and she complained of severe pain.
The woman, who worked in agriculture in Colombia and has three children there, admitted to carrying drugs, which had been inserted into her body during a hastily arranged operation.
“This is the first case in Germany in which drugs have been smuggled in this fashion,” said spokesman Hans-Juergen Schmidt.
Customs agents were shocked by what they said was the amateurish surgery. Schmidt said it showed how drugs smugglers “are completely indifferent to human life and the life-threatening conditions of their drug carriers.”
She was sent to a local hospital where doctors removed two 500-gram lumps of cocaine wrapped in plastic from each of her breasts. She will be charged with drug trafficking and faces jail time, according to Reuters.
The drugs have a market value of 200,000 euros ($220,000) and were destined for Spain, a customs spokesman said.
Smuggling drugs by inserting them in the body of the smuggler is not an uncommon tactic, and those who undertake it are often called drug mules. Most mules ingest drug packets by swallowing them and transporting them across borders in their stomachs.
Smuggling drugs inside the human body has huge risks, often more drastic than the severe pain the woman arrested in Frankfurt complained of. Drug packets, often balloons or condoms, can rupture inside the person carrying them, causing shock and even death.
A 24-year-old Brazilian man on a flight to Dublin from Lisbon in October last year became agitated, collapsed and later died after one of 80 cocaine pellets, holding nearly 2 pounds of cocaine, burst in his stomach.
Authorities in the UK said in December 2015 that they were seeing “increasingly extreme tactics” to smuggle drugs into the country, and they were resorting to X-ray screenings and sniffer dogs to discover travelers who were transporting narcotics in their bodies.
‘Cocaine is often perceived to be an elite drug’
Cocaine is the third-most-trafficked drug in Europe, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2015 report, behind only herbal cannabis and cannabis resin.
Cocaine use remains high in Western and Central Europe, according to the UNODC, at about 1% of the population ages 15 to 64.
Much of the continent, however, has seen relative stability in cocaine use, or even declines, including in formerly high-use countries such as Denmark and Spain.
In contrast, the UK has registered a rising trend in use during 2013-2014, after several years of reductions.
According to the UNODC, cocaine seizures in Europe grew from the mid-1990s to a peak of 121 tons in 2006, after which the quantity seized fell to an average of 62 tons between 2008 and 2012.
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