In the first seven months of this year police have caught 24 “Bodypackers” at Zurich International. A Bodypacker is someone who ingests drugs to smuggle them on planes. In Switzerland the price that these smugglers receive for the product they smuggle usually amounts to a few thousand francs, but the risk is high that if the package breaks in their body that they will die.
The number this year is almost as high as all of last year, during which 26 Bodypackers were caught. According to police spokesperson Stefan Aepli, the increase in numbers are not simply due to better detection, but also an increase in smuggling.
Most of the Bodypackers place the drugs, which is usually cocaine, into latex finger covers and swallow it, though some insert them anally or vaginally into their body, Aepli told the NZZ. Bodypackers usually smuggle around 1 kilogram worth of cocaine, however up to and over 1.7 kilograms have been confiscated.
The profile of a drug smuggler is hard to define according to Aepli. Typically it seems to be men between 25-50 years of age traveling from South America. However, professionally it can be anyone, even Baptist missionaries have been apprehended.
Should the police suspect someone of smuggling drugs with the ingested method they are taken aside and must deliver a urine sample. If the sample is positive the person is brought to a special cell in Zurich city. The cell has a special toilette that sucks the content into a separate room where it is washed and measured.
The punishment for smuggling depends on the amount, but is usually a 3-5 year prison sentence. As Aepli explained to the NZZ, these smugglers are just the small fish, but the police is more interested in who is buying the drugs and who is shipping.
Zurich Airport sees the most confiscation of narcotics in the canton of Zurich. In 2009 287 kilograms of the 352 confiscated by police were at the airport. In 2010 it was 107 of 157 kilograms.