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Live Puppies and Nine Other Extreme Drug Smuggling Methods


In a world where drugs are in constant demand, bizarre smuggling techniques are constantly being uncovered. But these 10 stand out for their inventiveness, their unexpectedness—and often, their shock-value.

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Yet more victims of the War on Drugs. Photo via Shutterstock

Yet more victims of the War on Drugs.

Obviously, the secret to good drug smuggling is to get away with it. If you do, you’ll tend to get very rich, very fast. And nothing fuels human creativity like profits. Drug smuggling has existed for as long as drugs have been restricted, so it makes sense that dazzlingly—sometimes gruesomely—inventive methods have been around for centuries.

For instance, a child’s doll named Nina was reportedly used by a Confederate general’s niece to smuggle morphine across enemy lines during the American Civil War. Trying the unexpected can keep you one step ahead—which is perhaps why Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel until recently used a prolific “mule” aged 87 to deliver hundreds of kilos of cocaine per trip.

Of course, one thing all of the techniques on this list have in common is that they were ultimately detected—otherwise we wouldn’t have heard about them. But law enforcement intercepts only a tiny fraction of total drugs trafficked, so you can bet your bottom dollar that there are lots of even more bizarre practices going on out there right now—perhaps just too devious to ever be discovered.

1. Kids’ Crayon Drawings

The fact that it’s impossible to keep drugs out of prisons is a fairly conclusive illustration of the hopelessness of trying to keep them out of wider society. But one interception reported in 2011 came when smugglers almost managed to sneak drugs into a New Jersey prison—using a children’s coloring book. Eerily addressed “to Daddy,” the book contained Suboxone that was turned into paste and then made into crayons to be drawn with. Some sharp-eyed law enforcement officials noticed a slight discoloration in the crayon marks to stumble upon a particularly crafty ruse.

2. Cocaine Jesus

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Holy coke!

Holy coke! In a truly perverse moment of creative inspiration, drug smugglers in Mexico came up with the neat idea in 2008 of not merely smuggling cocaine inside a statue of Jesus Christ, but to actually make a Jesus statue out of the white stuff itself. The statue didn’t make it past Laredo, Texas though, where drug sniffing dogs identified took a particular interest in the object in the trunk of a woman’s car—she had apparently been bribed $80 to smuggle it. The statue consisted of an impressive three kilos of cocaine.

3. Narco Submarines

The cartels’ submarines are well known, but the impressive effort and technology involved merit a spot on this list. In this example, cocaine traffickers in the mangrove swamps of the Colombian Pacific managed to build a fully functional submarine, with a length of 33 meters, capable of transporting six crew members and 10 tons of cocaine. When Ecuadorean soldiers, acting on a DEA tip-off, seized it in 2010, it was the first 100% submersible narco sub to be discovered. Its price tag would have been in the millions, with design and construction probably requiring the expertise of ex-military engineers. Still, with fleets of such vessels reportedly having been built, that really is a drop in the ocean.

4. Sex Lube Steroids

This attempt is notable for its branding. In 2008, Australian Customs officials in five different states confiscated 150 bottles of faux sex lubricant containing banned liquid steroids. They were being brought into the country from Thailand via a variety of routes—including the mail. To be precise, the confiscated drugs were in bottles marked “Gay Lube Oil.” Whatever the smugglers’ thinking, Aussie customs officials speculated a link between the increased popularity of steroid smuggling and the Olympic games that were held in Beijing that year— although “The bulk of the people we investigate are actually not elite sports people.”

5. Breast Implants

The prize for the most stomach-churning drug smuggling attempt arguably goes to the 43-year-old Venezuelan woman who nearly passed through Madrid International Airport with 3.7 pounds of cocaine stuffed inside her breast implants—although she wasn’t the first person to be caught doing this. She gave herself away through some nervous behavior, which caused narcotics agents to pull her aside. Female officers who frisked her then noticed some irregular shapes. She was rushed to the hospital where the removed implants revealed cocaine with a street value of $120,000 per breast.

6. Pigeon Carcasses

Where some see tragedy, others see opportunity. Photo via Shutterstock

Where some see tragedy, others see opportunity.

According to prisoners at an allegedly unruly and unsatisfactory prison in England called HMP Oakwood, “the amount of drugs coming in is a joke.” And apparently one popular technique for getting drugs literally over the prison walls is to stuff them into the carcass of a pigeon and sling them into the exercise yard. This is helped by the fact that Oakwood lies next to a main road. Plus, according to a prisoner quoted last year, “Nobody expects a dead bird—they just put it straight into the bin.” A prison security spokesman asserted that this smuggling practice is a myth. But it has been reported in other British prisons, too.

7. High-End Shoe Mold

Fashion doesn’t get any higher than this. In a drug mold even more impressive than the cocaine Jesus, Spanish smugglers managed to build convincing replicas of luxury high-heeled shoes, before finally being busted in 2011. This particular type of shoe—Manolo Blahniks, if that means anything to you—were made famous by Sex and the City. The cocaine concealed in these—at $70,000 per shoe, which probably made them even costlier than the versions Carrie bought—could only added to their legend.

8. Crystal Meth Candy Bars

You’re parents weren’t joking around when they told you not to take candy from strangers. In this case, some Snickers bars confiscated from a 34-year-old Californian man in 2012 were nothing more or less than chocolate-covered crystal, wrapped in genuine Snickers wrappers. The Long Beach resident was arrested Los Angeles International Airport for trying to bring these deceptive treats onto a flight bound for Japan, where they could have fetched $250,000 on the street.

9. Speed Statues

A police raid in Sydney revealed yet another amazing instance of drug smugglers outdoing themselves by creatively constructing a nearly foolproof narcotics mold. These particular statues, some of which were stamped “Made in Vietnam,” were fashioned from ephedrine—the substance used to manufacture speed. Australian cops arrested four men and collected a whopping 800 statues, which translates to a 400 kilos of ephedrine valued at $54 million in 2005—probably not quite enough to buy the Venus de Milo.

10. Live Puppies

This is not going to make any animal lovers happy, but it’s simply impossible to omit. In 2005, Colombian cops discovered Rottweiler and Labrador pups with bags of heroin implanted inside them. These unlikely mules were reportedly being used to smuggle drugs into the US by a 44-year-old Colombian veterinarian, who would surgically implant bags of drugs into the dogs’ abdominal cavities, then send them to the US once the scars were no longer visible. Though an X-ray did not initially reveal any drugs, an ultrasound showed outlines of the heroin bags inside of the puppies’ stomachs. Three of the poor creatures died during retrieval attempts. The vet was arrested after an eight-year manhunt.

Douglas Capraro is an editorial intern for Substance.com.