Tricks of hiding drugs are increasingly sophisticated

VCN - Methods of hiding drugs are constantly changed to outsmart detection of law enforcement agencies, especially the Customs force at the border gate.
Hanoi and HCM City Customs shared experiences in anti-drugs Hanoi and HCM City Customs shared experiences in anti-drugs
Seizing the largest number of drugs ever transported via air Seizing the largest number of drugs ever transported via air
Tricks of hiding drugs are increasingly sophisticated
Drugs sophisticatedly hidden in apple juice cans are seized by Hanoi Customs Department. (Photo: Hanoi Customs Department).

At the Conference on learning and exchanging experiences on the fight against drugs between HCMC Customs Department and Hanoi Customs Department, Customs officers who directly tackled drug-related crimes, pointed out sophisticated methods of hiding drugs to deal with the law enforcement authorities.

According to these officers, in 2021, drugs were hidden, mixed and were sealed in products such as supplemental foods, milk and modern medicines through import regime as bulk goods and goods being gifts and donations.

Criminals declared fake names or unspecific addresses of consignees and consignors to send goods as gifts and donations to deny responsibility when they were detected by the enforcement authorities.

In 2022, the suspects switched to use very sophisticated methods such as hiding goods in machinery and equipment as coffee maker partitions, water heater parts, and air purifiers.

Criminals often use fake names, fake documents, unclear addresses, junk SIM cards or hire recipients to deliver and receive goods at domestic post offices or hire transporters to carry out customs procedures to avoid the detection by enforcement authorities.

Notably, after being discovered and arrested, drug traffickers quickly changed their delivery methods, hired many transport companies and monitored cargo shipment’s journey, and left goods when being detected.

After the tricks of hiding drugs were discovered by the Customs in 2023, suspects have used different sophisticated tricks to deal with inspection by enforcement authorities. Accordingly, suspects have extended the goods receiving time, hired grab vehicles to receive goods and monitor vehicle's movement on the app, hired trackers at the delivery company and abandoned goods when detecting abnormalities.

The suspects encrypt the cargo package, making it difficult to verify the consignee. They deliver cargo through many forwarding agents, express delivery services, domestic transportation; and the enforcement authorities must wait for confirmation from foreign agencies at each transshipment point to identify the next delivery point, causing many difficulties for tackling violations.

According to leaders of the Hanoi Customs Department, the methods of hiding drugs are constantly changed to deal with the enforcement authorities. Earlier, criminals often hid drugs in packages of supplemental foods, cakes, candy, toothpaste, animal food, shampoo... After many criminal rings were destroyed, they hid drugs in machinery, electronic equipment, and household appliances, such as: microwave oven partitions, coffee makers, rice cookers, vacuum cleaners, air purifiers...

Notably, the subjects hid drugs in bags of flour, beer, and modern medicine. Before sending the drugs, they sent the goods many times to probe the authorities. If the enforcement authorities did not inspect the goods, they would send drugs.

Goods owners hired foreign passengers to carry luggage with scheduled flights to many countries, especially passengers from ASEAN member states to enjoy visa exemption incentives for drug trafficking.

To avoid being monitored, the suspects repurchased the checked baggage standard of passengers and asked them to carry goods for them and then pick it up domestically, making it difficult to verify the mastermind.

In addition, smugglers hired flight attendants to carry drugs and hid in toothpaste, cosmetics... The case of 4 flight attendants transporting 11 kg of drugs arrested by Tan Son Nhat Airport Customs Branch in 2023 is notable case.

Mixing drugs in cargo

In addition to transport goods via air, smugglers often hide and mix drugs in shoes, backpacks..., and packaged products such as bags of instant coffee, chocolate bars, milk...

The information on address and consignee declared on bills of lading and shipping documents is often unclear. Suspects do not receive the goods immediately and wait for a long time to receive goods, so the enforcement authority faces difficulties in identifying goods owners and arrest the suspects.

Smugglers often take advantage of mic goods sent via express delivery services (documents, low value...) to deliver to the recipient's address as apartment buildings, leading to difficulties for the enforcement authorities to identify the consignee, especially goods exported to Japan.

The leader of Hanoi Customs Department said that in 2024, in addition to the methods and tricks, suspects also hid drugs in plastic bags or cartons, machinery components, equipment, household appliances... causing difficulty for the enforcement force to detect via screening.

Recently, smugglers have changed the methods. They hide drugs in metal boxes, plastic boxes, canned drinks, wooden statues, plasterboard..., said by a Customs officer.

Responding to these tricks, customs units have directed specialized anti-drug forces to develop patrol plans at key routes and areas, especially implementing a peak crackdown on drug-related crimes; arrange forces, equipment, vehicles, and tools to support patrols, apply inspection and supervision measures, and promptly detect, arrest, and handle drug trafficking cases.

From 2021 to 2023, Hanoi Customs Department tackled 24 special cases, arrested 115 cases and 93 suspects, seized over 1.3 tons of drugs. In the first half of 2024, the department busted 6 special cases and arrested 42 cases and 18 suspects, and seized over 530 kg of drugs.

By Le Thu/Ngoc Loan

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