Smuggling by definition refers to the illegal transfer of materials or persons. But in today’s time and age, smuggling does not necessarily refer to illegal transfer from one country to another. The term today is used in a more vilified fashion. Anytime you sneak in some food to the movie theatre in order to avoid paying for the ridiculously pricey junk you get inside, you are essentially smuggling that food in. In fact, that one time when you hid your phone inside your clothes before entering the classroom to save yourself from getting in trouble with your teacher – that was smuggling too.
However, smuggling of rare and expensive items is rampant all across the world even today. The rarity of an item is what makes it even more precious and “smuggle-able”. The rules of smuggling have gotten stricter and the players stronger. It might be interesting to learn about a few of the items that are smuggled the most all over the world today.
Third world countries like the African countries are in a perpetual state of high inflation rates. They don’t just struggle from extreme poverty; they also suffer from scarcity of food and water. More often than not, these countries do not have proper governance to ensure adequate amenities for a healthy standard of living. And because of the high rates of inflation, prices of food are also sky-high. This acts as a good incentive for smugglers to sell allotted ration. Another popularly smuggled food item globally is exotic fruits.
- Gadgets and gizmos
Our lives today are very much dependent on electronics. Most things we do are on computers or our smart phones or a gadget of some sort. And the release of every new fancy model of any gadget ushers in the risk of a stampede outside electronics’ stores. While some people patiently wait in a long queue outside stores waiting for the launch of their long awaited new gadget, others choose a simpler and illegal way to acquire the same thing. Items such as iPads, iPhones, tablets, smart phones etc. are smuggled in enormous quantities in numerous countries. Particularly in India and China, the market for these smuggled goods is quite large. Some of the most commonly smuggled electronics in the world are expensive watches, cameras, phones, memory cards and game processors. Millions of dollars worth of gizmos gets smuggled across borders every year. What a business!
I know what you must be thinking. Blood Diamond, right? Although it was just a movie, it was based on the reality to an extent. Smuggling minerals is a lot like smuggling diamonds just like you must have seen in the movie. It is a tremendously profitable business. The smugglers mix up the valuable minerals with legal items for concealing. The miners of these illegal items do it simply for the money as they are mostly very poor and could do with some cash. In fact, even women and children are often involved in mining for the same reason. They might not get insurance or any job security. But at least the cash is good enough.
According to researchers, one of the biggest reasons behind the rise of terrorism globally is the widespread smuggling of arms and weaponry all over the world. This is also the reason behind political unrest in various regions. Billions of dollars worth of arms is smuggled every year, worldwide. The most popularly smuggled ammunition in the whole world are bombs, guns, submachine guns and assault rifles and of course all of these, along with several others types of ammunition flood the black market globally. Places such as Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Kenya, Somalia, Iran, Mexico etc. are the most known for these rackets. Africa leads the world in this regard, closely followed by the Middle Eastern countries. Sadly, this dangerous business is extremely profitable and booming. The day war ends all over the globe, the smuggling of weapons will also end. Till then, we are doomed to this world of explosion.
Money laundering is one of the most popular businesses in the world of smuggling. With the world economy in a serious crisis, this trade is absolutely booming! The huge amounts of money that is generated from illicit activities are often transferred overseas via large shipments. The sad part of all this is that the authorities are themselves knee-deep in this filthy business. Naturally, once the money is transferred across borders, corrupt officials and the police make it only easier for the criminals to get away rather than stopping them. Getting a hold of these criminals is almost next to impossible due to their inside connections!
- Exotic animals
Animal smuggling is a sad, sad trade. It is pathetic to learn about cases involving trading of animals. Most of these innocent creatures die in transit. Snakes, fishes, baby leopards, frogs, monkeys, tiger cubs and the list goes on. The black wildlife market is a 20 million dollar market. Endangered animals are traded the most. Despite the illegality, killing of animals for their various parts of value is rampant. For example, elephants’ ivory tusks; tiger teeth and bones; rhino horns; rare turtles; pygmy monkeys; komodo dragons; sperm whales; birds of paradise; geckos; chimpanzees are some of the most widely traded animals. These animals are either used and abused for their valuable parts or kept as exotic pets.
- Narcotics and drugs
For decades, trading narcotics and drugs has been a common trend. From cocaine, cannabis, heroin to prescription drugs such as Xanax etc. are the popularly smuggled drugs. The first known drug trade to man was opium from China to England. Even alcohol is a pretty common item that is smuggled in America. It has led to the formation of quite a few American mafia gangs who carry out the same. These drug gangs have infiltrated the black markets in less developed countries resulting in rampant kidnapping, killing and other violent crimes.
- Human trafficking
Human trafficking is one of the most dangerous and widespread rackets in some parts of the world today. In most cases, this refers to sneaking immigrants across borders. Third world countries developing into more advanced versions of themselves have led to creation of job potential for which immigrant smuggling is growing so rapidly. While smuggling of immigrants takes place with consent, other kinds of human trafficking occur without consent for abusive purposes. Innocent people and children are trafficked to be used as sex slaves, prostitutes or unpaid labour. Children are illegally adopted through such heinous rackets.
With poverty looming large over large parts of the world, poor people sometimes resort to illegal methods to earn money to make a living such as selling their organs. The black market for organs is rapidly growing in Canada, Israel, Turkey, Columbia, Pakistan and India. The dire need of organs for transplant is what has given birth to this illegal market. These surgeries of cutting organs out of their bodies involve health risks along with violations of several human rights, in cases where the procedures are done without consent. The victims are drugged and their parts cut out. Kidneys, livers and even corneas are most widely traded.
- Antiques and rare relics
Wealthy collectors take pleasure and pride in owning the most expensive antiques and rarest of the rare relics. More often than not, these collectibles are actually smuggled goods. The dearest possessions of countries across the world, even though kept under tight security, always have the possibility of getting stolen and smuggled. Expensive jewels, antique coins, grand statues and paintings etc. all get stolen and smuggled overseas. India and China are two of the most popular regions of the world to have undergone such monumental losses in their treasury. Robberies in various museums in Afghanistan, Italy, Cyprus, Poland etc. have also been recorded.
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