Drug Mule ‘X-Ray’ Illustrates Smugglers’ Predicament

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Images from a scan carried out on an Irish man who apparently attempted to transport almost a kilo of cocaine concealed in his stomach from Brazil to Portugal illustrate the risk inherent in working as a “drug mule.”

On September 12, Brazilian officials stopped an Irishman as he was attempting to board a flight from Sao Paolo to Lisbon, Portugal. Nervous and edgy, the 20 year-old struck police as acting suspiciously. As it happened, he had good reason to feel anxious: hours earlier he had swallowed 72 sausage-shaped bags of cocaine, totaling 830g of the drug in total. Authorities estimate that the stash would have been worth more than $200,000 on the European market.

This is a fairly common method of smuggling used by individuals known as “mules,” who are frequently employed by drug trafficking organizations to carry drugs across borders. The method has been used for decades by criminal groups in cocaine-producing countries such as Colombia and Peru, and its high rates of pay ensures that there will be no shortage of recruits in the future. According to a 2008 IPS report on the phenomenon, drug mules in Peru can make up to $1,000 for one trip carrying cocaine into nearby Brazil or Argentina, and as much as $3,000 to smuggle the drug into the U.S., Europe or Asia.

But as the incredible medical images of the young Irishman below illustrate, working as a drug mule is not without risk. The individual had ingested one small packet after another of cocaine, and was no doubt intensely uncomfortable as they sat lodged in his intestines. It is not uncommon for the bags to break open while inside the mules, causing death by overdose.

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Image credit: AFP – Getty Images

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