Unhappy landings for drug mules at Madrid airport


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The Independent Online

An entire orchestra from Venezuela, a man dressed as a priest using the Bible to hide his stash and another who had cocaine in his false leg – all were among 364 people caught last year at Madrid airport trying to smuggle drugs into Spain – and, according to officials, it is the normal-looking people they suspect most.

In total, those arrested by police over the 12 months were carrying more than a ton of cocaine, much of it from South and Central America.

“They are mothers, retirees, people with no way to earn a living and no savings – easy prey for gangs who pay their air fare in return,” one official told El Pais newspaper.

While police admit that they miss many of those operating as willing drugs mules, the ruses used by some of those they did intercept show people are turning to increasingly ingenious ways to get narcotics into the lucrative European market.

A small orchestra on a flight from Caracas might expect to have their instruments checked, but in a recent case, many of the musicians had been persuaded to swallow bags of cocaine.

The dog collar-wearing, would-be priest confidently told police officers that he was en route to take part in a clerical conference in Spain. Further inspection brought an end to what had been a profitable career for a man who been travelling around Europe transporting drugs – he was, of course, no more a priest than any of the other passengers on his flight.

Like another man who had hidden about two pounds of cocaine in his wig, the fake priest was charged with  drug offences.

Police say that they detain an average of one person a day, and some of the cases are heart-rending.

An elderly couple on a flight from Lima told police they owned a restaurant in the Peruvian capital, but it soon became apparent that they knew little about each other. It transpired that the woman had terminal lung cancer and had met the man as they waited in Lima for their flight. He offered to pay her to pose as his wife – and she had embraced the idea as it would enable her to leave some money to her son.