8 of the most bizarre things people have tried to smuggle

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Island. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Island. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

You’ve heard of people bringing home a bottle of seawater or a collection of shells from a holiday at the beach – a poignant reminder of an idyllic time under wide open skies.

But one couple took things a step further recently: they scooped 40kg of sand into 14 plastic bottles, packed it into the boot of their car along with the rest of their luggage and set off home.

As they drove their car onto the ferry bound for their home in Toulon, France, they were stopped and arrested. Agents at the border had discovered their sandy stash during a search and they now face a fine of between €500 (R8 000) and €3 000 (R48 000).

The problem? The pair had been on holiday on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, where the white sand of the pristine Chia beach is a protected resource.

The French couple claim they didn’t know it was an offence to remove the sand – they just wanted a memento of their holiday in paradise.

Whether they manage to convince the authorities of their innocence remains to be seen. But there are other travellers who left officials in no doubt they were taking major chances.

Bladder bust

Chinese authorities arrested 11 travellers for smuggling $119 million (R1,7 billion) in fish swim bladders from Mexico. The swim bladders, from totoaba fish, are used in traditional Chinese medicine and are thought to have healing properties.

Many believe they can cure arthritis, making them  a lucrative commodity on the black market. One bladder, which the fish need to maintain buoyancy in the water, can sell for up to $18 600 (about R270 000).

The totoaba fish is on the critically endangered list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Fish bladders
Fish bladders. (Photo: Gallo Images/AFP)

A lizard blizzard

He desperately wanted to smuggle 44 reptiles out of  New Zealand in 2010 so  Hans Kurt Kubus, from  Germany, sewed pouches into his underwear and hid a mix of geckos and skinks in them.

But it wasn’t long before his risky plan failed and he was accosted by officials at the airport. Geckos and skinks are considered endangered species and protected by New Zealand law, which meant Hans faced three months in jail and had to pay a fine of NZ$5 000 (then about R25 000).

A lizzard
A lizzard. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The living dead

Gitta Jarant (then 66) and her daughter, Anke Anusic (41), were travelling from Manchester in England to Berlin, Germany, in 2010 when they were arrested.

Their crime? Attempting to smuggle Gitta’s dead 91-year-old husband, Kurt, a former pilot, onto the flight.

Kurt was propped up in a wheelchair and wearing sunglasses.

Gitta and Anke claimed they had no idea he’d died – they thought he was simply asleep and said he wore the glasses because of an eye problem.

A postmortem examination concluded Kurt had died of natural causes.

Gitta and Anke escaped prosecution – a Manchester court found there was insufficient evidence to warrant charges as there were too many conflicting results from examination of the body.

One report said he’d been dead for 12 hours and another for 36 hours. Mom and daughter were released without charge.

Gitta Jarant (then 66) and her daughter, Anke Anus
Gitta Jarant (then 66) and her daughter, Anke Anusic (41). (Photo: BBC)

Snake on the plane

Initially officials suspected the external hard drive hidden in a piece of luggage was a bomb. But when they called an expert to screen the device’s innards they discovered a live snake.

The python, which the passenger was trying to take to Barbados, was knotted into a pair of pantihose and stored inside the drive. Officials from the US Fish and Wildlife Services took possession of the snake and the passanger was fined.

Snake on the plane
Snake on the plane

Causing a stink

A traveller was recently caught with a bag filled with moose poo at an Alaskan airport. He considered the faeces, parcelled as individual nuggets, as a memento of his Alaskan adventure.

His luggage was flagged after scanning equipment detected a large mass of organic material inside and, as this indicates potential explosives, officials inspected the bag. Turns out it’s not against the law to carry animal poop on  a plane and the passenger could board with his souvenirs.

A bag filled with moose poo
A bag filled with moose poo

Something fishy

Airport security grew suspicious after hearing what they described as “flipping noises” coming from beneath a woman’s skirt when she arrived in Melbourne, Australia, in 2005.

A search revealed 51 live tropical fish, divided into 15 water-filled plastic bags, were tucked into the pockets of an apron she was wearing under her skirt.

It’s unclear what she intended doing with the fish, but officials said they could carry diseases that would decimate Australian fish were they to be released in local waters. The fish were confiscated and the woman escaped with a warning.

Gold fish
Gold fish. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Dead fish
Dead fish. (Photo: AP)

Squashed in

The package looked as if  it was about to burst and when customs officers took a closer look they found  a 1,2m-long squash.

The vegetable, which weighed as much as a small child, arrived at  Birmingham Airport in England from India in 2014. It was destined for a food retailer.

A spokesman for the nearby local council said it wasn’t something they came across often. Environmental health officials confiscated the  offending squash.

Large squash

Hazardous plane

Her stilettos’ unusual design caught the attention of officials at an airport in Maryland, America. They were in the shape of a gun and featured straps lined with faux bullets.

The shoes were in the woman’s carry-on luggage and while it wasn’t exactly illegal to travel with the peculiar items, she was asked to put them  in her checked luggage.

US law prohibits replica guns and ammunition from being carried through airport security checkpoints

Checking in her shoes would’ve resulted in her missing her flight, so the woman eventually left them behind.

Hazardous heels
Hazardous heels



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