Carpets are now being used to smuggle in drugs into China, senior Customs officers said on Monday.
Customs officers in Urumqi seized 32 carpets, with 48 kg of heroin, being brought in from Pakistan, in March.
Two months earlier, Customs officers in Beijing had confiscated three carpets, with 5 kg of heroin, dispatched from Afghanistan.
The new modus operandi of traffickers came to light after Customs officers intensified their efforts for the Olympic Games. No obvious changes in the number or pattern of cases have been seen so far, though.
The traffickers have become more sophisticated and are using new techniques, Wang Zhi, deputy director the General Administration of Customs' (GAC) anti-smuggling bureau, said yesterday.
But how can heroin be carried in a carpet?
Wang said traffickers first inject heroin into plastic tubes of 1-2 mm diameter, and wrap them with colorful natural or synthetic fibers to make them look like yarns. They then weave them into the carpet along with normal yarn.
GAC spokesman Liu Guangping said newer techniques used by traffickers are making drug-detection at border and other entry and exit points more difficult.
Plus, equipment used by Customs officers are not advanced enough to detect all the cases.
Human bodies, shoes and parcels are being increasingly used to smuggle in drugs, he said.
A total of 160 drug-trafficking cases were cracked from January to mid-June this year, about the same number in the corresponding period last year, according to figures released by the GAC yesterday.
Wang said smuggling of drugs into China from the "Golden Triangle" in Southeast Asia has decreased. The "Golden Crescent", comprising the mountainous regions of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, however, is still a major source. In fact, drug trafficking through that route has increased. "The opposite used to be the case about two years ago," he said.
Drugs smuggled into China are in turn sent to other destinations. Heroin and cocaine usually go to Australia and Europe, while new drugs such as Ecstasy are more likely to be smuggled into South Korea and Japan, another GAC official Guan Xiangying said.
Customs officers have pledged to further intensify their efforts by strengthening intelligence exchange with other countries and regions and installing more advanced detectors at entry and exit points.
For example, Wang said the GAC had informed the entire Asia Pacific region about drugs being smuggled in carpets.
He said all parcels and freight transported through the Beijing Capital International Airport now have to undergo machine or manual checks, to prevent smuggling as well as terrorist attacks.
(China Daily June 24, 2008)