The transportation of illegal substances across most borders in the world is a criminal offence, that carries serious consequences. A “mule” is a person who transports drugs across international borders. The risks are extremely high, some countries carry the death penalty, jail sentences are lengthy and the prison conditions in countries where trafficking is common are usually inhumane and barbaric … so why on earth would a person take such a risk? MONEY: The average payment for a Mule is US$3000 and US$5000 per trip which, in poor countries is a LOT of money.
For some, this is equivalent to three years salary! Not every poor person becomes a mule but the numbers are growing. ADDICTION: When a person crosses that invisible line into addiction their mental reasoning begins to flail as the addiction takes over. An addict will borrow or steal money to support their habit, they lose jobs, friends, family. We have heard the same story told over and over … he/she lost EVERYTHING to addiction… jobs, cars, houses, wealth, friends, family… and the final blow comes when a desperate person does a really stupid thing and becomes a mule.
Not every addict will become a mule and not every mule is caught but the reality is that the numbers of addicts who do, is growing! HOW THEY DO IT: Mules carry drugs strapped to their bodies, in their stomach, in luggage, in shoe soles, in shampoo bottles, and any other way they can think of to conceal contraband while trying to beat the system. Some mules hide the drugs in condoms that have been surgically implanted under the skin! In many airports x-ray machines have become a common sight with people’s stomachs being x-rayed as they go through. Pregnant women cannot be subjected to an x-ray so they make great mules.
There have been reports of people smuggling drugs inside the gutted bodies of dead human babies, dead puppies, even live snakes! Getting your drugs to you is a sick business, isn’t it? What does a good drug mule look like? Get up and go stand in front of the nearest mirror… THAT is what a drug mule looks like. The girl next door, the mom, the uncle, even the granny and lets not forget the geeky looking guy from the video store. There is no ‘look’ for a mule. Times have changed and authorities are checking everyone, especially the least-likely looking folk. What happens when a Mule is caught?
In countries like Venezuela, Brazil and Columbia where drug trafficking is rife, the authorities have seen it all and heard it all. Trying to bullsh*t them about being set up, used as a decoy, framed, innocent, etc does NOT work and being a first-time-offender means nothing! In airports, bus stations, border posts and all other travel facilities the authorities look for tell-tale signs: women travelling alone, new passports, 2 week visits, cash of approx ZAR10,000 (US$1500), signs of nervousness like pulsating arteries in the neck, sweating, eyes darting back and forth… and many other ‘signs’ send an immediate alert.
Think you’re not being watched… think again! Think your smuggling method is new and undetectable?… think again! If the people you’re running for have told you not to worry because everyone at the airport has been “paid”, why are they sending you?? Why are they not picking up their own stock? Because you might be their decoy. They KNOW your chances of getting through are SLIM however, they might have alerted the authorities to watch for you coming through and when you are arrested, while all the fuss is going on, their ‘main man’ walks through with suitcases full of drugs!
The loss of the 2 or 3 kg’s that you are carrying is a small price to pay for the passage of a bigger consignment and your life is of no consequence to them. When you’re arrested: The minute you are arrested for having illegal contraband you are regarded as ‘the scum of the earth’ and you WILL be treated as such. Your mom, dad, brother, even your teddy bear will NOT be able to help you. EVERYTHING you have will be taken away from you, including your passport, money, luggage and of course, the contraband you are carrying. With only the clothes on your body, you will be taken to the nearest jail and thrown “in the hole”.
Solitary confinement for 7 to 21 days! As the vultures decend NO ONE will know where you are!!! Your family will become frantic trying to find you. When they bring you out of ‘the hole’… you will be confronted with people who do not speak English!! You’ll be faced with Spanish, French, Thai, Chinese, Arabic… can you speak the lingo of the land? You will have entered an alien world where the only kindness shown will be from the vultures, posing as lawyers, demanding HUGE sums of money (up to US$25,000. 00) to help you. Can they really help you if you pay them this money? Probably not.
Does your family have this kind of cash available? Probably not. Who can your families trust? NO ONE! Foreign prisoners are ‘cash-cows’ in those poor countries. Prison guards and gang inmates KNOW that your family will do everything to help you, including sending money, which they will extort from you. With the Rand exchange rate at any given time, THIS WILL MOST LIKELY DRIVE YOUR FAMILY TO THE BRINK OF BANKRUPTCY. * Drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, are often placed in condoms, and are then swallowed by a drug mule in order to evade detection by customs officials. * An average drug mule can swallow between 80 – 125 of these pellets.
These would contain a total of 800g – 1,25kg. * Apart from imprisonment, the biggest danger to a drug mule is the possibility of the rupturing of one of these pellets. Stomach acids can sometimes cause this. Death is usually very quick, as the quantity of drugs ingested is so high. Heart failure and breathing problems are usually the cause of death. * Drug mules often take medication to inhibit bowel movements for the flight. Sometimes they are also given tablets to reduce acid production in the stomach. Once on the other side, they are given laxatives and the pellets pass through their digestive systems.
If they are caught by customs officials, they are often locked in a room where there is a receptacle of some sort and they stay there until they have passed all the pellets. * Things that alert customs officials include the following: a passenger who appears to be overweight (and who might have strapped drugs onto their bodies); a passenger who is exceptionally nervous; a woman travelling alone, who has little luggage and is not dressed for the expected weather conditions in the country of destination; passengers who carry gifts or parcels for other people.
X-rays, urine tests and sniffer dogs are used to detect the presence of drugs. * A drug mule could earn as little as $3 000 or less for a trip. Drug lords, who commission the mules, can sometimes make 100 times more than that when selling the drugs brought in by the mules. * The majority of drug mules are male, but the number of women doing this, is on the increase. The women are often from poor communities and are viewed as dispensable by the drug lords. Drug mules are usually in their twenties or thirties, but people up to the age of 72 have been caught doing this. In one year (2002/2003) at J. F. Kennedy airport in New York, 145 drug mules were intercepted. Of these, 38 were female and 107 were male. * Drugs wrapped in condoms can also be stored in the rectum. Drugs have also been transported in suitcases with false bottoms, in babies’ nappies, inside hollow statues, strapped to the body of the mule, or inside containers such as shampoo bottles, to name but a few. * In several countries drug trafficking is a capital offence. These include Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi-Arabia and Vietnam.