Brits Behind Bars: Cocaine Smugglers, Channel 4 - TV review: Who would have thought a drug smuggler could take such pride in his work?

The logistics of smuggling are more interesting than the ethics

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We’re like any other company, with a human resources department and an operational side,” said the identity-disguised silhouette in front of the camera. That silhouette belonged to “El Negro”, an experienced groomer of drug mules, and the “company” he works for is an international cocaine-smuggling operation, based in the ancient Incan capital of Cusco, Peru. The insight that Channel 4’s Brits Behind Bars: Cocaine Smugglers provided into every level of this hierarchy was truly impressive. I’ve seen documentaries about grocery shops with less access than this.

We were also treated to a practical demonstration from Eduardo, the man whose job it is to hide large amounts of cocaine in specially adapted suitcases. He charges “5,000 gringo dollars, plus materials” for each one and takes immense pride in the craftsmanship. “Anyone who fails with one of my suitcases, it’s because they gave themselves away, they got nervous,” he says. According to Eduardo’s bosses, nine out of 10 mules get where they’re going with no trouble at all.

In case you like the sound of those odds, there was regretful testimony from Rachel Franklin, a British woman currently serving a seven-year sentence in a Peruvian jail after agreeing to ferry cocaine through the airport in exchange for “a free holiday”. Should we pity women like Rachel? Or are they, as El Negro suggested, victims of their own reckless greed? In this instance, the logistics of smuggling were more interesting than the ethics and fortunately it was the logistics that this documentary focused on.