Israelis' favorite goods to smuggle last year were cell phones, Viagra and fake brand-name clothes, said the customs authorities at Ben-Gurion International Airport in their annual report. Customs caught people smuggling undeclared goods 10,082 times last year - up from 9,850 in 2010. Taxes on these goods totaled NIS 80 million.
The most popular cell phones were the iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy SII. Of the thousands of phones confiscated, most were caught in packages, not actually on travelers. However, agents recalled one woman in her 60s caught hiding 44 iPhones in her stockings. Another person, a 22-year-old customer-retention team leader at cell phone company Pelephone, was caught with eight iPhones taped to his body.
Customs inaugurated its body scanner in 2010. Last year, the machine caught people trying to smuggle counterfeit medications, gold jewelry, diamonds, drugs and cash, said Rafi Gabay, head of customs at the airport.
And then there were the more unusual catches. A man flying in from Brussels was caught with eight red siskins, a type of rare bird. The birds were in plastic containers on his body. Many attempts to smuggle goods through delivery services involved fake brand-name clothing and cell-phone accessories. Agents also found a kit for breaking into vehicles.
Last year also was a record one for ecstasy-smuggling attempts. Agents caught 140 shipments of the illegal drug, mostly via delivery but also on passengers. One particularly creative man flying in from Bangkok hid the pills inside picture frames displaying pictures of the Thai king.
Some 12.2 million people passed through customs on 90,000 flights last year - up from 11.4 million on 86,000 flights in 2010. Of the travelers, 200,000 had their baggage scanned by customs. In 22% of all packages checked, customs found something significant. "One out of every five packages that we checked contained a serious violation," said Gabay.
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