An attempt to smuggle cocaine into the UK hidden in a series of paintings has been foiled by UK Border Agency officers at Stansted Airport.
The 200gms of cocaine, worth as much as £10,000, had been concealed within five abstract oil paintings that had been flown from Colombia.
Sarah Wolstenholme, UK Border Agency Assistant Director at Stansted Airport, said: “It was the smell that initially alerted officers to the possibility that the paintings were more than they seemed.
“Further examination revealed that the smugglers had covered the canvases with a layer of cocaine and then literally painted over the drugs.”
The paintings – each 25cm by 30cm – were destined for an address in south west London.
They arrived at Stansted listed as shirts and paints, with a value of $1. Investigations into the shipment are continuing.
Wolstenholme added: “Criminals are prepared to go to elaborate lengths to get drugs into the UK – even relatively small amounts like this. The challenge for us is to stay one step ahead of the organised gangs behind this vile industry.”
The UK Border Agency uses a range of methods to detect drugs being smuggled through ports, airports and postal sorting offices across the UK. These include:
Intelligence — the UK Border Agency works closely with police forces, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and overseas law enforcement bodies to gather information about potential drug trafficking routes and would-be smugglers. It also acts on information provided by the general public.
Sniffer dogs — detection dogs are trained to identify the scent of particular drugs — and even cash — to intercept illegal contraband.
X-ray machines — these are deployed to spot anomalies in luggage or parcels that might reveal hidden drugs.
Conpass machines — this is a low-dose radiation body-scanner used on people suspected to have concealed drugs internally. Suspects have the right to refuse a scan or a hospital X-ray. However, if they do so, they are likely to be kept in detention until nature takes its course.
Iontrack and Ionscan — these machines analyse swabs taken from a passenger's baggage to detect traces of drugs.