Cape Town International Airport has seen more than 200 drug busts since last year, with three of the biggest hauls this year taking place this month.
The first week of this month saw the biggest drug busts being recorded at the airport and resulted in the seizure of drugs worth R4.2 million.
The biggest of the four saw drugs worth R2.2m confiscated from four Brazilian women who were arrested after being found to be in possession of 8.5kg of cocaine.The recent drug busts bring the number of successful operations since last year to 219. Of those, 172 were drugs leaving the country, while 47 were cases of drugs coming in. The busts were made by customs officials and were made in several parts of the airport such as the international arrivals hall, the international mail centre and the cargo sheds.
The illegal drug trade sees drugs coming from countries like the US, Canada and Australia and drugs moving out of the country go to places such as the Netherlands and Britain.
According to border control, some of the ways traffickers attempt to conceal the drugs is by swallowing them, carrying them on their person or in false compartments in bags. Some smugglers simply send the drugs through mail.
Some traffickers, like suspects this month, get creative in their smuggling techniques and wrap the contraband in things such as chocolate wrappers.
On May 2 two people were arrested with 3.8 kg of cocaine, valued at R1.5m and another, in the same week, with 2.9 kg cocaine valued at R1.1m, all wrapped in chocolate packaging. Police believed the perpetrators to be part of the same smuggling ring because their modus operandi appears to be similar.
In a statement, Sars said it is their “mandate to protect the country’s borders and we will continue to deploy our resources to counter and deter the smuggling of any narcotics into the country, and work with all other law enforcement agencies to do so”.
They added that the more popular contraband being trafficked are heroin, khat leaves, tik, anabolic steroids and ecstasy.
“Once any illicit goods are detected, the passenger and the goods are handed to Saps for arrest and further investigation as this falls outside the mandate of Sars Customs. Our Customs Border Protection Unit is our first line of defence, but it works with other units in Sars to detect and deter risk.”
Among the most commonly trafficked drugs is herion, and its use is on the increase in Western Cape townships and across South Africa, according to the coastal co-ordinator for NGO Anti-Drug Alliance, Andrew Stoller. Anti-Drug Alliance deals in the treatment of addiction.
“Per capita the numbers of drug users is getting higher. There has been a noticeable increase in the amount of heroin being used in townships.”
Stoller said tik still remains widely used in the province, and attributed the use of drugs to socio-economic factors.
He added that the UN said it would be looking at policy and legalising drugs, which he believes would be a step in the right direction.
“Legalising would be the right thing to do because a lot of the people end up in prison for possession and they are not criminals, they are (usually) drug users.”
Cape Town International Airport spokeswoman Deidre Davids commended the work done by the police and Sars in apprehending trafficking suspects.
“We congratulate the police on the recent arrests which we know is the result of hard work and dedication on the part of the SAPS team.”[Source: Cape Argus]