Smuggling or the illegal transport of goods and other items has been around for a long time. The rarer the item, the more it is smuggled. Over the ages, as the rules have gotten tougher, so have the ingenious methods for smuggling. From swallowing packets of drugs, hiding items in foods, underwear, bribing officials and using other concealing methods, smuggling has been on the rise. Some of the common items that are smuggled include:
10. Electronic items
With advancing technology, our lives have gotten increasingly dependent upon electronic goods and fancy gadgets. Every new model brings with a kind of excitement that could be stampede related. In several countries, people wait in lines for hours waiting for stores to open up during the launch of particular products such as mobile phones, ipads, notepads or more, so it comes as no surprise that these are smuggled in such large quantities to other countries, especially China and India where the market for electronic items is huge. Digital cameras, mobile phones, watches, memory chips etc. are some of the most commonly smuggled items due to the large amount of custom duty on them. In 2012 a man was arrested attempting to smuggle memory cards and game processors worth 26.62 lakh rupees. Similar arrests in Hong Kong and India reaching millions of dollars are proof of the growing smuggling racket in these areas.
Third world countries apart from having most of their population living in poverty also face food and water shortages. In most African countries like Somalia where governance does not exist or on the whole is authoritarian leading to lack of basic amenities and necessities. While inflation in these parts are at an all-time high, food prices have been skyrocketing providing the incentive to smugglers and even poor villagers to sell allotted rations hence causing shortages. Exotic fruits are another commonly smuggled goods since most foods are banned due to disease risks of larvae in them.
With the world economy going downhill as a result of the crisis in America, money laundering has become a booming trade. Large shipments of cash can often be a means to transfer money generated via illegal activities. The method used is first the money is smuggled out of the country, and foreign financial institutions receive this money to originate a cash letter instrument to deposit in a U.S bank. With corrupt customs officials and police, apprehending these criminals has become next to impossible.
7. Rare collectibles and relics
Rare historically relevant items are every rich collectors dream and they are sold for huge sums of money during auctions. Several relics though are not sold but preserved as national pride to be displayed in museums, but also open to burglary and smuggling. Chinese officials are especially in a fix due to rise in smuggling of Chinese antiques and cultural relics such as jades, bronzes, enamelware belonging to Chinese emperors. Precious stones and jewelry, statues and sculptures, exquisite glasswork, antique coins, temple idols are some of the other items that have been smuggled from places such as India and China with rich cultural relics. In recent news even rare item like space rock has been confiscated from smugglers. While most of the art plunder occurred during the wars, where a large number of relics were looted from Afghanistan, Cyprus, Italy, Poland, in recent times too smuggling continues with robberies in museums. Apart from just these, art smuggling is in itself an intricate business. Works of Van Gogh, Picasso have been reproduced and sold in black markets.
People smuggling can refer to smuggling illegal immigrants across country borders or human trafficking. People smuggling also called migrant smuggling has been increasing rapidly and usually occur from developing or third world countries into developed nations, for better job opportunities or to avoid persecution. These smuggling rings can range from amateurish gangs to well developed smuggling rackets. Some of the most common route that has developed over the years has been from Mexico and Central America to the states, from west Asia to Greece and from turkey to west Europe. The difference between smuggling immigrants is that they are moved with their consent and an agreement between the person and the smuggler, while trafficking is a kind of smuggling where victims are moved for exploitative purposes as slave workers, for prostitution or forced marriages. Sometimes even children are trafficked for illegal adoption purposes.
Illegal arms trade has been credited as one of the reasons for the rise in terrorism as well as political turmoil in regions with an unstable or non-existent government. It is estimated that about 60 billion dollars’ worth of arms and ammunition exchange hands every year. Guns, assault rifles, submachine guns, bombs etc. are some of the ammunition sold in the black market and countries where these rackets are especially prevalent are Afghanistan- Pakistan border, Egypt, Palestinian, Israel, Syria, Somalia, Kenya, Mexico and Iran. Africa is believed to be the number one hotspot for arms trade followed closely by the Middle Eastern countries. Extremely profitable, the illegal gunrunning business is a booming business, since as long as there is war, there will be weapons.
4. Natural resources and minerals
One of the most mineral rich regions in the world is Africa and due to it being largely forested, its potential has still remained untapped. The strong presence of violent rebel groups and militia are indicative of the violence rampant in these areas. To generate sufficient money for their requirements of weapons and arms, a large network of illegal smuggling of minerals has been created. The ores are removed from the mines and sold to smelting corporations of which the most popular item smuggled is gold. To reduce imports the excise duty levied on gold is at an all time high, but its demand is increasing even more which greatly encourages smuggling. It is believed that the gold smuggled out of Congo alone is about 500 million dollars per year. Sudan, Peru, Nepal, Dubai and India are some of the other countries where gold smuggling is prevalent, but apart from gold, tungsten, jade and fuel are other popularly smuggled items.
3. Organ trade
A poor man’s way to earn money, selling kidneys in the black market has been a growing concern among several countries such as Canada, Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, turkey, Colombia etc. The dearth of organs for transplants has made the black market organ trade boom. The average waiting period for a person on the transplant list for a kidney is as long as three years! Apart from just the health risks of these secretive operations, it is also a question of human rights since in several occasions organs are removed without the consent of the victim by tranquilizing them, or falsely convincing them to have a medical procedure wherein their organs are removed and in many cases unsuspecting tourists are murdered for the same. Prisoners and trafficked people have become the main source of these organs. According to reports it is believed that about 10% of transplants may be of illegally obtained organs. Apart from kidneys, even livers and corneas are popularly traded organs.
2. Exotic animals
Selling rare and exotic animals has been a common object of trade on the black market. The black market for wildlife comes just next to the drug trade which could be close to about 20 million dollars. All animals on the verge of extinction are popularly traded. It is expanding even more today since the punishment for getting caught smuggling wildlife is a lot less severe than any other kind. Hunting of rare animals has been declared offense and trading in their body parts as well due to their rapid killings in the past. Yet black market sale of ivory tusks, rhino horns, tiger bones and teeth have been on the rise. Rare turtles trafficked in china usually end up as soup, sperm whales are smuggled as food and their teeth for carvings, pygmy monkeys, birds of paradise, komodo dragons which are the largest reptiles, geckos, queen Alexandra’s birdwings,i.e. the world’s largest butterflies, chimpanzees etc are some other creatures smuggled as pets or as collectibles.
1. Drugs and narcotics
From pleasure drugs like cocaine, heroin, cannabis and ecstasy to prescription painkillers like oxycodone and Xanax, drugs have been a popular smuggled item since decades. In the beginning of the 19th century, the illegal trade in opium between china and British merchants was the first instance of drug smuggling. After the prohibition banning alcohol in America from 1920 to 1933, alcohol had become one of the most popular items and led to the creation of the American mafia gangs which have now evolved into large drug gangs in underdeveloped localities where poverty drives people to use illegal means. These drug gangs have been known to be part of violent crimes such as murders, kidnappings as well as drug wars and sadly have extended to colleges. In some countries even the law enforcement is believed to be working hand in glove with drug traders.