Rhino horns in Vietnam, elephant tusks in Africa, turtles in Thailand, and drugs and dirty money just about everywhere: these are but a few of the laundry list of illegal goods being trafficked across country borders these days.
Just this past Tuesday (August 7) Hong Kong’s customs department confiscated 1,120 ivory tusks, 13 rhino horns and five pieces of supremely valuable leopard skin, worth over $5 million dollars in total. In 2011, Thailand’s customs department confiscated endangered turtles worth a total of $33,000. Contraband artists have been caught smuggling bear claws (above) across the China-Russia border, and poachers have been turning endangered polar bears into rugs and shipping them off for years. Earlier this year, a 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton was even successfully smuggled into the US, before it was found, confiscated, and sent back to Mongolia.
But it isn’t the mere variety in unusual items that are being smuggled that’s baffling—the varying ways in which they are being trafficked is mind-boggling, too. Last year in Germany, dirty money was found concealed in pastries; in Australia, 293 grams of ecstasy were found hidden inside of a Mr. Potatohead doll; and US customs enforcement seized 200 donkey statues containing some 1800 pounds of marijuana back in 2009.
Successful contraband trade is a tricky business. Moving contraband items from country to country isn’t only highly illegal, it’s highly risky, too. Here are a few of the strangest flops: