A man dressed in a clown's costume strolls through Dublin airport. Under his outfit, thousands of cigarettes are taped to his body. Another gentleman carries an innocuous piece of hand luggage, which reveals a small chihuahua dog when it passes through the x-ray machine.
These are just some of the unusual situations that customs officers at Dublin airport deal with on a regular basis.
Last year, customs officers seized 32 million cigarettes being smuggled through Dublin Airport. So far this year, 16 million cigarettes have been seized, and coming up to the Christmas period it is expected millions more will be confiscated, says Robin Broni, customs higher executive officer at the airport.
Last year, customs at Ireland's main airport seized 21kg of cocaine – each kilogramme has a street value of €70,000 – and 15kg of coke have been seized so far this year. The other main drug that is seized by customs officers is cannabis. Last year, 132kg of herbal cannabis was seized at the airport while 30kg of cannabis resin was confiscated.
"We really have seen almost everything. The situation with the chihuahua was actually very cruel. It was a very small bag to be keeping a dog cooped up in. It was a designer dog that we believe was to be sold," Broni told the Sunday Tribune. "The passenger had brought the dog by plane from Slovakia to Spain and then on to Dublin, where we detected it."
Dublin airport customs officers also examine airmail packages that are sent from abroad. This was how a carefully crafted wicker basket that contained a large quantity of cocaine was detected. "One of our staff noticed an anomaly; the basket was a bit thicker than normal. Sure enough, after it was sent for analysis we discovered it contained cocaine. It is likely that this product was produced in a factory somewhere in South America and have informed our international colleagues to be on the lookout for similar baskets," he said.
While much of the contraband smuggled is handled by international crime gangs, some of the illegal items confiscated have been brought unwittingly into the country.
One of the main ways customs officers detect smugglers is through examination of body language. People who look and act nervous are paid extra attention. "Things like ivory coral jewellery, snakeskin and crocodile handbags have been confiscated; sometimes people are unaware what they have bought on holidays is an illegal item here," he added.
There are currently 50 customs officers at Dublin airport but more are due to be hired to facilitate Terminal 2, which is due to open in November.
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