HomeNewsBriefDrug Mule 'X-Ray' Illustrates Smugglers' Predicament
BRIEF

Drug Mule 'X-Ray' Illustrates Smugglers' Predicament

16 SEP 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

Images from a scan carried out on an Irish man who apparently attempted to transport almost a kilo of cocaine concealed in his stomach from Brazil to Portugal illustrate the risk inherent in working as a "drug mule."

On September 12, Brazilian officials stopped an Irishman as he was attempting to board a flight from Sao Paolo to Lisbon, Portugal. Nervous and edgy, the 20 year-old struck police as acting suspiciously. As it happened, he had good reason to feel anxious: hours earlier he had swallowed 72 sausage-shaped bags of cocaine, totaling 830g of the drug in total. Authorities estimate that the stash would have been worth more than $200,000 on the European market.

This is a fairly common method of smuggling used by individuals known as “mules,” who are frequently employed by drug trafficking organizations to carry drugs across borders. The method has been used for decades by criminal groups in cocaine-producing countries such as Colombia and Peru, and its high rates of pay ensures that there will be no shortage of recruits in the future. According to a 2008 IPS report on the phenomenon, drug mules in Peru can make up to $1,000 for one trip carrying cocaine into nearby Brazil or Argentina, and as much as $3,000 to smuggle the drug into the U.S., Europe or Asia.

But as the incredible medical images of the young Irishman below illustrate, working as a drug mule is not without risk. The individual had ingested one small packet after another of cocaine, and was no doubt intensely uncomfortable as they sat lodged in his intestines. It is not uncommon for the bags to break open while inside the mules, causing death by overdose.

1580

Image credit: AFP - Getty Images

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…