So-called "swallowers" are risking their lives by ingesting scores of packages containing narcotics worth tens of thousands of pounds, border officials said.
Some go to extraordinary lengths to prevent drugs passing through their system. One man went for three weeks without going to the toilet, surviving on only a sip of water and the skin of an apple a day. They are known to ingest between 80 and 110 packages each, with drugs wrapped in condoms, balloons and cling film.
The average fee for the smuggling attempts is between £1,000 and £1,500, but gangs also use threats of violence. In one case cited by the Home Office, Jaroslaw Adamski was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to carrying nearly 1kg of heroin in his body when he arrived at St Pancras station in London in February. The 51-year-old told Border Force officers he was approached by a man in his native Poland who asked if he wanted to make some money and he was paid 15 euro per package swallowed.
Adamski claimed he was not told what he was swallowing. Forensic tests later revealed the packages contained 950g of high-purity heroin which, if cut and sold on the streets in the UK, would have had an estimated value of around £155,000.
The majority of the mules target Britain's main airports but they have also attempted to enter by trains from Europe, officials said. Andy Coram, assistant director of Border Force South East & Europe, said: "These cases show the lengths smugglers will go to in their attempts to bring class A drugs into the UK.
"Those who swallow packages like this are risking their lives and we are seeing more and more sophisticated purpose-made swallower packages which show the organisation behind this type of smuggling."
Tactics used by the authorities to foil the smuggling attempts include X-ray screening and sniffer dogs trained to identify chemicals secreted in the skin. In the last year Border Force has seized nearly 8818lb of Class A drugs.
Immigration minister James Brokenshire said: "Security is our priority and our officers are not there to just stamp passports; they play a vital role in stopping this type of cross-border crime and preventing dangerous drugs entering the UK which blight communities."
Belfast Telegraph/Dec. 29, 2015
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