Fake vegetables, bananas, drones, and pastries -- here are some of drugs smugglers' most bizarre methods

Every year, billions of dollars in illegal narcotics circle the globe, driven by the demand of millions of users.

At every step, authorities try to intercept the drugs and apprehend their purveyors.

In response, traffickers have developed a variety of inventive ways to obscure their cargos.

In August 2016, US border agents uncovered more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana hidden among limes.

In two incidents in July, border agents found well over 200 pounds of meth hidden in shipments of jalapeños and cucumbers.

But food isn’t the only method of concealment.

Fake carrots, real doughnuts, catapults, drones, and submarines, — here’s a non-exhaustive list of the clever ways traffickers have smuggled drugs.

Stuffed chilli peppers and fake carrots

US Customs and Border Protection detected more than a ton of marijuana disguised as carrots at the Pharr International Bridge, near McAllen, Texas.

Drug traffickers have mixed legitimate business with their illicit activities, in part so that the former can conceal the latter. Vaunted drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, now awaiting trial in the US, was no exception.

'He opened a cannery in Guadalajara and began producing thousands of cans stamped 'Comadre Jalapeños,' stuffing them with cocaine,' Patrick Radden Keefe wrote in a 2012 New York Times Magazine profile of Guzman, before 'vacuum-sealing them and shipping them to Mexican-owned grocery stores in California.'

In one instance, according to a court in San Diego, 1,400 boxes of canned peppers, filled with 'hundreds of kilos of cocaine,' were intercepted at the border.

In January 2016, agents in Texas discovered a shipment of marijuana wrapped in orange tape and a concealed within a cargo of carrots. The bust uncovered more than a ton of weed worth a half-million dollars.

In October 2016, Customs and Border Protection agents stopped a tractor trailer loaded with a commercial shipment of carrots. Among the carrots, agents found 159 packages of 88 pounds worth of what was thought to be meth.

Bananas are especially popular

Spanish Civil Guard
Fake bananas used to hide drugs, shown after being seized in November 2016.

Colombia is a major producer of bananas. Colombia is also a major producer of cocaine.

Traffickers have seized on that overlap.

In September, Spanish police busted a 2,000-pound cocaine haul hidden in a commercial shipment of bananas in the southern city of Sevilla.

The bananas don't have to be real, however.

In November, Spanish police in the southern coastal city of Malaga and the Mediterranean coast city of Valencia uncovered 37.5 pounds of cocaine -- just over 15 pounds of it concealed in fake bananas made of resin, with the rest hidden in the flaps of the cardboard boxes the bananas were shipped in.


US Customs and Border Protection
CBP officers foiled a traveller's attempt to smuggle nearly 7 ounces of cocaine packed inside tamales, August 22, 2014.

In August 2014, CBP officers at George Bush airport in Houston intercepted nine bags holding 7 ounces of cocaine hidden inside tamales, which were contained in a box of 200 tamales the traveller -- a man from El Salvador -- didn't disclose to authorities.


US Customs and Border Patrol
CBP agents in Arizona intercepted meth hidden in packages of tortillas in late October 2016.

In late October, Customs and Border Protection officers at the Morley pedestrian border crossing at Nogales, Arizona, stopped a 62-year-old man from Arizona.

A narcotics-detecting canine found nearly 3 pounds of meth hidden in hollowed-out tortillas the man was carrying.

Doughnuts and cakes

Some time in late 2014 or early 2015, Mexico soldiers confiscated packages of doughnuts covered not in powdered sugar -- but instead 'were sprinkled with cocaine,' according to BBC Mundo.

In late 2013, authorities in San Andrés Island in Colombia, a popular tourist destination, found almost a kilogram of cocaine hidden in 12 doughnuts. Authorities have also found cakes stuffed with amphetamines.

Frozen sharks and seafood

Mexican marines examine frozen sharks used to smuggle drugs.

In 2009, Mexican marines searching a shipment of frozen sharks in Progreso, Yucatan, found packets of cocaine hidden inside the dead fish -- 'one of the strangest discoveries' yet made, BBC Mundo noted.

The shipment of doped-up sharks was not the only attempt to conceal narcotics in seafood.

According to Radden Keefe, Guzman also made use of fish shipments, hoping the nature of the cargo would turn away prying eyes and noses. Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel boss, packaged drugs 'in truckloads of fish (which inspectors at a sweltering checkpoint might not want to detain for long).'


US Coast Guard
US Coast Guardsmen sit atop a narco sub stopped in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

Narco subs -- either full-fledged submarines or self-propelled semisubmersibles -- are one of the most advanced and ambitious methods by which traffickers move narcotics.

Traffickers' first forays into undersea transport were humble.

They had 'crude semi-submersibles at first, then fully submersible subs, conceived by engineers and constructed under the canopy of the Amazon, (which were) then floated downriver in pieces and assembled at the coastline,' according to Radden Keefe.

'I cannot image what the guys in these submarines are going through, sitting there underneath the ocean in one of these homemade submarines,' Grillo said.

Submarines of any complexity are a costly undertaking, but the investment was minimal compared to the profits traffickers like Guzman have reaped from just a handful of successfully delivered cargoes.

'They're investing tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in some of these submarines, which, again, is nothing when you see the profits of the cocaine trade,' Grillo noted. 'I mean, the cocaine trade makes billions and billions of dollars every year.'


Secretaría de Seguridad Pública Tijuana/Facebook

In January 2015, a drone carrying nearly 3 kilos of crystal meth crashed in Tijuana, near the US border. Police said the drone was likely unable to sustain the weight it was transporting.

In September 2015, a 26-pound bundle of marijuana, possibly carried by a drone, crashed through a home in Nogales, near the Mexican border.

'It's all right on top of our dog's house,' said the homeowner. 'It just made a perfectly round hole through our carport.'

Just have drones have been used to get contraband into the US, people have attempted to use them to get contraband into prisons.

A Maryland inmate serving a life sentence for murder and two other men were convicted of conspiring to smuggle drugs and pornography into a prison with a drone in March 2016.


Mexican authorities demonstrate a drug catapult, seized near Naco, Sonora state, just across the border from Arizona.

The US authorities have thrown up many barriers to the flow of drugs from Mexico. Guzman and other smugglers, in response, just throw their bundles higher.

'We've seen some incredible things, like cartels using big catapults to simply throw drugs over the border,' Grillo told Business Insider. 'They just put the drugs there and, whoom! -- over the border fence, and then somebody picks it up on the other side.'

Catapults have been discovered on multiple occasions, and some of them capable of flinging drug packets 100 meters. The use of a centuries-old piece of technology was especially galling for US officials.

'They erect this fence' on the US side, Michael Braun, a former DEA official, told Radden Keefe, 'only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they're flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.'

In February, just a few weeks after President Donald Trump -- he of the vaunted border wall -- took office, US agents on the border came across another catapult strapped to an existing section of border fence. Two bundles of nearly 50 pounds of marijuana were found near by.


US Customs and Border Protection officers in San Diego discovered marijuana packages hidden in a car's spare tire.

Drug traffickers have taken advantage of the millions of cars and trucks that cross between the US and Mexico every year, and inspectors at border checkpoints have found a variety of secret compartments and stashes in automobiles.

'Classic trap cars,' as Grillo described them, 'these cars they build up in these workshops with these great hiding places, hiding drugs inside the gas tanks so that the customs people have to cut it open with a blow torch (in order) to check this thing out.'

According to BBC Mundo, drugs have been hidden in tires and gas tanks and disguised as parts of the engine. Cars aren't the only machinery used to ship drugs, though.

Mexican officials in Progreso, a port city in Yucatan state, found diluted cocaine in the insulating oil being shipped with electrical transformers. The cargo had arrived from Argentina.


Customs and Border Protection
A concrete snail statue filled with meth intercepted by border agents in Cincinnati, December 20, 2016.

In January, Customs and Border Protection officials in Cincinnati came across a package from Mexico, labelled 'Mexican stone crafts.' The package contained a concrete decorative snail statue that an X-ray inspection showed had 'interior anomalies.'

Inside, the agents found just over 53 pounds of methamphetamine. The statue had been sent from Mexico City and was destined for Lawrenceville, Georgia.

An Xbox

US border agents uncovered 3 pounds of meth hidden in an Xbox in September 2016.

CBP agents stopped a 16-year-old attempting to cross into the US from Sonora, Mexico, in mid-September.

A narcotics-detecting canine directed their attention to an Xbox the traveller was carrying, and an inspection revealed 3 pounds of meth worth about $US10,000 hidden inside.


A Mexican woman was stopped at a border crossing in Texas and found to have cocaine in the soles of her shoes.

An 'unusually heavy' pair of sneakers alerted border agents in El Paso, Texas, that a smuggling attempt may have been afoot.

A woman from Ciudad Juarez was stopped on September 5 as she tried to pass through the Ysleta international pedestrian crossing. During an inspection, CBP agents noticed the shoes she was wearing were heavy and that the inner soles were 'thick and bulky.'

After an X-ray revealed an anomaly in the soles, agents probed them, uncovering a white powder that tested positive for cocaine -- 1.32 pounds in total.

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