An Israeli national has been reported dead at the Tokyo Airport as the result of an overdose after authorities said he tried to smuggle over a kilogram of cocaine and other stimulants in his stomach.
According to an article in the Mainichi, a national daily newspaper in Japan, authorities with the Metropolitan Police Department filed charges with public prosecutors Wednesday, accusing a suspect in his 50’s, who was not named in the article, of violating the Stimulants Control Act by swallowing multiple wraps of illegal stimulants and getting on a flight from France to Japan with the intent of bringing the drugs into the country for distribution and sale.
The Mainichi said the deceased man collapsed inside the plane on January 2 as it arrived at the Tokyo Haneda Airport From France. He was taken to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
The suspect reportedly had 89 individual packets or wraps of cocaine and other stimulants. Medical staff told the Mainichi that none of the wraps burst, so it was unclear how the suspect succumbed to drug poisoning, but authorities with the Metropolitan Police Department’s narcotics and firearms control division surmised the drugs must have seeped out of the wraps somehow.
The process of smuggling drugs this way is referred to as “body packing.” A study on this practice by the National Institute of Health defined body packing as “the way of psychoactive substances smuggling by swallowing of carefully prepared packages with drugs into the gastrointestinal tract or by insertion them into the vagina or the rectum, especially in order to avoid finding them by the custom service.”
During the study, researchers administered 60 wraps of cocaine totalling 500 grams to an otherwise healthy 29-year-old Polish male to monitor and observe how his body would react to the introduction of so many foreign objects.
“During the 37-hours stay in our department the patient was monitored (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature), laxatives and oral fluids were administered. All the packages were evacuated through the natural way and it was followed up by the control abdominal radiography. No symptoms of acute cocaine intoxication or any other complications were observed,” the study said.
Now you might be wondering, as I was while writing this, how exactly a person might go about smuggling drugs inside their body without ending up dead, as this man did. Well, some light internet digging netted me a few answers.
A Vice profile on a Dutch cocaine smuggler illustrated how easy some believe this process to be. The girl, who was given the moniker Sharon, told Vice she began smuggling drugs from the small Caribbean island of Curacao to the Netherlands because of how common and easy it was in the area.
“A lot of people would ask you to smuggle for them if they knew you were Dutch. But I always told them that I wouldn’t. Well, until I ran into a friend I knew from back home,” Sharon said to Vice. “She asked me if I would smuggle some stuff for her and I decided to do it. Everybody did it back then. Every flight would have at least ten or 20 people with drugs on it. Even little old grandmas were selling drugs in Curacao.”
Packing the drugs is very important, as evidenced by the case at the Tokyo Airport, because if the packaging breaks it can cause overdose and death extremely quickly. Sharon told Vice that in her case, the cocaine was packed in plastic, wrapped in a latex glove then taped shut with a particular kind of packaging tape. Afterwards, additional layers of plastic and latex were added.
“It was really well packaged,” Sharon told Vice. “Some people had a hard time getting it down, though. They’d practice with a piece of carrot or something like that.”
Sharon also attested that she had a friend die at the age of 19 from a packaging burst. The kicker is Sharon was under the impression that she never took this risk, because she only ever swallowed boiled cocaine. I was unable to confirm if there was any accuracy to this information.
“That was pure coke, though. I only swallowed boiled coke, which won’t kill you. Or, at least, that’s what they told me,” Sharon said to Vice. “I’ve seen a lot of drug mules get dropped off at A&E [the emergency room], actually.”
The test for whether packaging would hold up on its journey from esophagus to toilet bowl was simple, according to Sharon. She would simply drop it into a cup of water and if it sank to the bottom, it required repackaging. If it floated, down the hatch.
“It’s not that complicated,” Sharon told Vice.
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