A passenger was caught smuggling 44 smartphones through Ben-Gurion International Airport last Thursday. The passenger, an Israeli woman in her 60s, was returning from London; the goods, iPhone 4 smartphones, were hidden in her stockings under her clothes.
This latest catch, made Thursday at 9:30 P.M., marks the 24th time the airport's full-body scanner has detected significant attempts among passengers to smuggle goods into Israel, since the device was installed in October of 2010. The facts emerged from internal data obtained by Haaretz from Ben-Gurion's customs unit, headed by Rafi Gabai.
Last week's would-be smartphone smuggler was reportedly dressed in a traditional Georgian outfit and walking with difficulty, which drew the attention of customs officials. When they approached the Israeli woman, she claimed she was not feeling well.
They agreed to accompany her, but told her she must first pass through the full-body scanner. The officials were amazed to find that, under all the wrappings of the traditional dress, the woman had hidden no fewer than 44 iPhones in her stockings. She was later released and a decision will be made this week on whether to indict her or to send her before the committee that determines fines.
Some 24 hours earlier, on Wednesday night, another smuggling attempt was foiled when the scanning machine detected eight rare birds on the body of a passenger. The birds belonged to the protected Red Siskin species, which cannot be sold according to international treaties that protect rare wild animals.
Ben-Gurion customs officials, along with inspectors from the Nature and Parks Authority, apprehended the passenger - an Israeli who had returned from Brussels. The full-body scanner had found four boxes on his body, in which he had hidden two birds each. The customs authority ordered a criminal investigation and the birds were put in the care of the Nature and Parks Authority.
Other recent scans have revealed caches of drugs, money, diamonds, jewelry, and fake medicine on the bodies of travelers.
Customs data from 2010 also show that 75 cases involving smuggled ecstasy pills were uncovered last year, as were four kilos of date-rape drugs, three caches of cocaine in commercial quantities, 23 kilos of opium and some 700 pipes of different varieties for smoking drugs.
Almost 40 percent of the goods confiscated at Ben-Gurion Airport in 2010 were cigarettes and alcohol, which appear to be the most worthwhile items to smuggle in from abroad due to cumulative taxes of up to 200 percent on them in Israel.
Other items discovered by customs officials included a variety of arms and ammo, but perhaps the strangest finding of all last year was a number of stuffed crocodiles.