Colom­bia po­lice ar­rest woman at air­port with US$38,500 in stom­ach


Colom­bian po­lice said Wed­nes­day they ar­rested a woman at Bo­gota’s air­port af­ter dis­cov­er­ing she was smug­gling US$38,500 in cash in small cap­sules hid­den in­side her body.

The woman, de­scribed as a 39-year-old Colom­bian fash­ion de­signer, was ar­rested two days ago in the cap­i­tal’s El Do­rado air­port af­ter ar­riv­ing on a flight from Mexico.

The woman was re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal treat­ment and so far had ex­pelled 64 la­tex-cov­ered cap­sules con­tain­ing five US$100 bills each, Gen­eral Gus­tavo Moreno, head of the cus­toms po­lice, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Colom­bia sup­plies around 90 per­cent of the co­caine con­sumed in the United States, so law en­force­ment agents in the coun­try are per­ma­nently on the look­out for drug mules who swal­low small cap­sules of co­caine. Find­ing peo­ple us­ing the tac­tic to smug­gle cash in ex­cess of the US$10,000 le­gal limit is much rarer.

Nonethe­less Moreno said it has be­come more fre­quent of late and he ex­pects to cap­ture more peo­ple em­ploy­ing the tech­nique be­cause the strong U.S. dol­lar pro­vides an in­cen­tive to crim­i­nals to repa­tri­ate prof­its from the illegal drug trade.

Most drug sales take place in dol­lars or eu­ros so Colom­bian traf­fick­ers fre­quently look to repa­tri­ate their illegal prof­its and laun­der them through con­struc­tion and other front busi­nesses back home. A strong dol­lar, which al­lows the drug money to go fur­ther once con­verted into pe­sos, serves as a strong mag­net em­bold­en­ing traf­fick­ers to take on such huge risks, ex­perts say.

So far this year, cash seizures at Bo­gota’s air­port have quadru­pled to about US$5 mil­lion as the green­back has risen al­most 60 per­cent against the Colom­bian peso.

The big­gest seizures took place last week, when five peo­ple trav­el­ing to­gether from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic were ar­rested car­ry­ing more than US$1 mil­lion in cash hid­den in false-bot­tom lug­gage.

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