Corn flakes “frosted” in cocaine and fentanyl pills hidden inside toys might make for amusing headlines, but these recent discoveries demonstrate how commonplace the smuggling of drugs inside consumer goods has become.
On February 13, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port of Cincinnati intercepted a large shipment of corn flakes in transit from Peru to Hong Kong with the help of a CBP sniffer dog named Bico.
According to the CBP press release, the cereals “contained white powder, and the flakes were coated with a grayish substance” that tests confirmed was cocaine. Some 44 pounds of cocaine frosted flakes were found.
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In a separate case on February 20, police in Phoenix, Arizona reported that a family discovered a bag containing over 5,000 pills of fentanyl inside a used plush toy purchased at a thrift store. After the startling discovery, the drugs were quickly turned over to the authorities.
In Europe, customs officials have also seized unconventionally hidden drugs originating from Latin America. In a coordinated international operation during the month of February, Belgian, Dutch and German authorities intercepted over 23 metric tons of cocaine that were hidden in two separate shipments of wall filler and wood from Panama and Paraguay, respectively, and headed for the same address in the Netherlands.
The haul, which constituted the largest ever drug bust in Europe, was valued at an estimated 600 million euros wholesale, according to Dutch prosecutors and several billion euros on the street, according to German customs officials.
InSight Crime Analysis
Amidst tighter customs controls and record levels of cocaine production in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, drug traffickers are exploiting everything but the kitchen sink to move their product and protect it from detection.
In addition to the well-documented use of chartered and commercial flights, ships and submarines, drug traffickers have turned to more unconventional modes of transport, including drones and even ambulances, as detailed in past roundups published by InSight Crime.
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Moreover, drug traffickers have targeted a variety of legal goods to hide their product, whether it be corn flakes, World Cup merchandise or brand new Ford cars. That such a variety of methods have been uncovered by authorities only indicates that there are many more that have succeeded in evading detection.
The cat-and-mouse game between drug traffickers and law enforcement is never-ending, and it is complicated by corruption leading to arrangements between the two supposedly opposed factions. For instance, rampant corruption among Paraguayan officials has allowed a booming contraband trade into Brazil while US Border Patrol agents have been implicated in drug trafficking on the US-Mexico border.