The uphill battle against cunning drug smugglers

Shanghai Customs said drug seizures are increasing, and the type of drugs illegally entering the city is changing.

Shanghai Customs has handled 32 drug-smuggling cases in the past year and seized more than 4 kilograms of drugs and chemicals used in manufacture of illicit drugs, the agency said on Saturday.

In the first half of this year, officers have investigated 21 drug-smuggling crimes, double the number in the same period last year.

Customs said most of the cases in the past year have involved drugs sent by mail.

Smuggling has moved into new types of drugs, the agency said, citing psychotropic drugs like flunitrazepam, zolpidem and triazolam. They are rapidly becoming the most commonly smuggled drugs, officers said.

The agency handled three smuggling cases related to psychotropic drugs in 2017 and 11 in 2018. However, in the first half of this year alone, they have investigated 17 such cases.

More than 400 grams of psychotropic drugs had been seized by local customs in the past year.

According to the customs, the US, Canada and Japan are major origins of drugs illegally entering China.

In the past year, officers said they seized 2.3 kilograms of marijuana and related products from the US and Canada, including marijuana oil and foodstuffs.

Psychotropic drugs mainly originate in Japan. Flunitrazepam, a controlled substance used by prescription to treat insomnia, can cause highs if ingested with alcohol, attracting many young drug-takers who run the risk of becoming addicted.

In the first six months of this year, local customs handled 13 cases involving more than 270 grams of flunitrazepam seized in parcels sent from Japan.

Some of the drugs are made into candies mixed with wine to evade being detected by the customs. Some are put in medicine bottles and declared as calcium or Vitamin C tablets.

Last week, customs officers at the Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal seized wine mixed with ecstasy and ketamine.

Earlier this month, an African man who took a flight from Ethiopia to Shanghai was found to have more than 600 grams of cocaine hidden between layers of his slippers.

On February 15, customs officers found a suspicious package mailed from Japan to Shanghai. The 100 tablets inside, which were declared as vitamins, all tested positive as flunitrazepam. A suspect was arrested.

Some drugs banned in China are easier to obtain in pharmacies overseas.

Customs officials admit it’s an uphill battle against cunning drug dealers.

“Take flunitrazepam as an example,” customs officer Yuan Jiong told Shanghai Daily. “In some parcels from Japan, we found flunitrazepam, fully packaged so that we could easily identify the contents.”

He added, "However, more recently -- possibly because of our frequent checks -- we noticed that the outer packaging has been dropped. Maybe in the future, these tablets will be hidden in other containers."

The uphill battle against cunning drug smugglers
Ti Gong

A customs officer is showing the public how the drugs were hidden in places they can never imagine.

The uphill battle against cunning drug smugglers
Ti Gong

A sniffer dog is detecting drugs from parcels and suitcases.

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