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The Strangest Things Found At Customs

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People attempting to smuggle forbidden or illegal items into another country isn’t a new game. Be it concealed in a suitcase, on their person, or via more creative methods, there seems to be no limit as to what some people will try and get past Customs or Border Control officials. From the dangerous and idiotic to the downright unbelievable, the teams at airport and border Customs really have seen – and confiscated – it all. But what items rank as the strangest found by Customs? Webjet have put together a list of the weirdest, most unusual and outright shocking things that have been confiscated by Customs. 

Item: Live eels

Where: Miami International Airport, USA

The Bust: No matter where you’re flying into or out of, transporting live animals without declaring them is a big no-no. This passenger ignored that rule and tried to hide 22 vertebrates in a plastic bag inside their checked luggage. The same passenger was allegedly also caught attempting to smuggle in more than 150 tropical fish.

Item: A jar of human eyeballs

Where: London Stansted Airport, UK

The Bust:  Back in 2007, Customs happened upon a passenger transporting a jar filled with eyeballs. 10 human eyeballs were discovered in total; all were confiscated.

Item: A tiger cub

Where: Iran

The Bust: In 2010, Customs officials uncovered what they first thought was a toy tiger. But Border Control agents quickly realised it was actually a sedated tiger cub. The cub was being smuggled in from Thailand, with the intention of becoming a domestic pet. Luckily, the cub was saved and was relocated to a wildlife conservation centre in Bangkok.

Tiger cub. Credit: The Independent


Item: A cow’s brain

Where: Cairo International Airport, Egypt

The Bust:  As a delicacy in Egypt, cow brains may be sold for quite a high price to eager buyers. In 2012, three men were caught attempting to smuggle almost 200 kilograms of cows’ brains into Cairo, with the hope of selling the brains at almost six times the price they paid in neighbouring Sudan.

Item: An ecstasy-filled Mr. Potato Head

Where: Sydney, Australia 

The Bust: The innocence of beloved Mr. Potato Head was lost in 2007 when the children’s toy was found containing more than 200 grams of ecstasy tablets concealed inside.

A Mr Potato Head toy filled with ecstasy. Credit: Kickvick

Item: A smoke bomb

Where: Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, USA

The Bust:  Unlike the landmine mentioned above, this bomb was fully functioning. The smoke bomb was discovered inside a passenger’s checked-in luggage and was promptly confiscated. 

Item: A cooked pig’s head

Where: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, USA

The Bust: This jig may be one of the most conspicuous finds by the Customs teams in Atlanta. This whole pig’s head was found out by a sniffer dog, thanks in part to its pungent odour. Much like many other countries, the US has strict laws about meat products entering the country; pork is banned due to the risk of spreading disease such as swine fever and foot-and-mouth. The head was confiscated and destroyed.

Cooked pig’s head. Credit: USA Today

Item: A rocket launcher

Where: Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, USA

The Bust: Still on the topic of firearms and weapons, a rocket launcher was discovered at this small airport in Pennsylvania. It was found hidden inside a checked bag. The AT4 anti-tank launcher was not live, however the weapon was still confiscated.

Item: Hippopotamus tusks

Where: Edmonton International Airport, Canada

The Bust:  Declared as replica hippo tusks, a closer examination by the Customs team at Edmonton International Airport found the pair to be the real deal. Hippopotamus tusks are made of ivory, and are a highly-prized commodity on the black market. The tusks were seized.

Hippo tusks. Credit: CBC

Item: A fake human corpse

Where: Atlanta International Airport, USA

The Bust: Imagine arriving at airport security and seeing the gentleman in front of you sending what appears to be a full, rotting corpse through the scanner. The corpse in question turned out to be a replica used in the film Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. After clearing the usual security procedures, the replica corpse was free to continue its journey. 

Item: A foosball table concealing marijuana

Where: Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, US-Canada border

The Bust:  In 2015, a Canadian woman attempted to smuggle in about 24 kilograms of marijuana into the USA by hiding the narcotics inside a foosball table. Its street value was estimated at $60,000 USD and the woman was arrested at the border.

Foosball table. Credit: CBA

Item: Human intestines

Where: Graz Airport, Austria

The Bust: Austrian Custom officials must have feared for the worst after discovering human intestines. The intestines apparently belonged to the passenger’s husband and no arrests were made.

Item: Live pigeons

Where: Melbourne, Australia

The Bust:  In 2009, a man travelling from Dubai to Melbourne was caught with pigeons wrapped in newspaper strapped to his legs. The reason as to why the man attempted to smuggle the birds into the country is unknown.

Pigeons. Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

Item: A hand grenade

Where: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), USA

The Bust:  Not to state the obvious; but don’t try to bring a hand grenade through customs. It will be confiscated, and you will most likely face extensive interrogations to determine why you have tried to get a  weapon through an airport. Fortunately for this would-be smuggler, the device was a deactivated grenade from World War II.

Item: Live songbirds

Where: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), USA

The Bust:  Travelling from Vietnam to Los Angeles, US citizen Sony Dong was sprung attempting to illegally import 14 endangered songbirds by strapping them to his legs. Dong pleaded guilty in court and was sentenced to four months in prison. Dong had hoped to sell these exotic birds, which go for around$500  to $1,000 USD each in the US.

Live songbirds. Credit: Mirror

Item: Breast implants filled with cocaine

Where: Frankfurt, Germany

The Bust:  Officials in Germany became suspicious of a Colombian woman who arrived presenting with pain and a recent surgical scar beneath her breasts. It was later discovered that the woman was attempting to smuggle in more than  a kilogram of cocaine, all concealed inside her breast implants.

Item: A sarcophagus from Egypt

Where: Miami, USA

The Bust:  Customs officials in Miami must have had the shock of a lifetime when they discovered a legitimate Egyptian sarcophagus hidden inside a shipping container from Spain. The ‘owner’ of the stone coffin could not provide documentation proving his official and legal ownership, and so the sarcophagus was denied entry into the United States. Upon its return to Egypt, tests determined that the sarcophagus was a relic stolen 125 years ago.

Egyptian sarcophagus. Credit: NPR

Item: A human skeleton

Where: Munich International Airport, Germany

Story: On a stop-over from Sao Paulo to Naples, Customs staff at Munich Airport discovered the remains of a human skeleton inside the luggage belonging to two Italian women. Any fears of wrong-doing were soon quashed when one of the women produced a valid death certificate for the skeleton. The two women were returning a family member’s remains to their home in Italy.

Item: Cocaine hidden in goat meat

Where: John F. Kennedy International Airport, USA

The Bust:  What seemed like a routine check turned into a massive haul of illegal narcotics for the Customs officials at JFK airport. Yudishtir Maharaj had hidden about four kilograms of cocaine inside frozen goat meat from Trinidad.

Goat meat stuffed with cocaine. Credit: Daily Mail

Item: An avalanche charge

Where: Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, USA

The Bust:  A homemade avalanche charger was found inside a man’s carry-on bag at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. As the device was both homemade and active, the individual was arrested.

Item: A landmine

Where: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, USA

The Bust:  It’s probably not the best idea to bring an anti-tank landmine to an airport, even if the device is diffused. The discovery of this landmine caused significant delays and the Explosives team was called in to conduct an analysis of the bomb.

Item: Money baked inside pastries

Where: Germany 

The Bust:  One way to get around declaring large sums of money? Baking the bills into pastries, of course! That’s what a few German smugglers schemed to do in what could have been the most delicious money-smuggling scheme of 2012. The money was confiscated and the pastries thrown out.   

Make sure you avoid appearing on the above round-up by following your chosen destination’s customs laws!

Feature Image Credit: Pxhere / CC0 Public Domain.

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