By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
Each year, billions of dollars of illegal drugs flow around the globe, driven by the demand of millions of users.
As these drugs increasingly circle the world, so too do authorities increasingly try to intercept these narcotics and apprehend their purveyors.
In response, however, traffickers simply develop more inventive ways to obscure their cargos.
From fake fruits and vegetables, to pastries and even drones, drug smugglers have showcased their most weird and wonderful ways of smuggling drugs.
While there are heavy penalties for smuggling drugs into Australia from another country, there are also heavy penalties for smuggling drugs and other things into a NSW prison.
But if you thought you’d seen it all, then just keep reading…
Criminals Strap Tiny Backpack to Pigeon to Smuggle Drugs
It’s the kind of scenario you’d only ever see in a movie.
Except it happened in real life.
Drug smugglers attached a tiny, bird-sized backpack filled with sedative pills, marijuana and even a USB drive onto a homing pigeon in an attempt for the bag of goods to be delivered to prison inmates in the Argentinian city of Santa Rosa.
BBC News reports the bird, known as “Narco-pigeon”, was spotted flying back and forth into the grounds of the jail in Santa Rosa, at which point officers apparently grew suspicious.
This led them to investigate the matter further by managing to shoot down the foul fowl and hauling it in before it made its way over the medium-security prison’s walls.
And just as well – because they discovered the pigeon was carrying a tiny rucksack filled with contraband.
Not the First Time Pigeon Nabbed for Narcotics Smuggling
Alas, it turns out that this isn’t the first pigeon to be nabbed for narcotics smuggling.
In 2015, guards at a Costa Rican prison caught a pigeon flying cocaine and cannabis into the slammer.
The pigeon was intercepted as it landed on the grounds of the La Reforma jail, in San Rafael de Aljuela.
Guards were quick to discover a small sack strapped to the bird’s chest, containing approximately 14g of cocaine and 14g of cannabis.
The bird’s mugshot was taken and posted online by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Justice and Peace, using the headline “narcopaloma” – meaning “drugs dove”.
It is believed the pigeon was groomed by an inmate, who had it trained to act as a courier to deliver drugs into the prison.
Speaking of the incident, prison police director Paul Bertozzi told Spanish news agency Efe that the incident was unsurprising.
“Drug traffickers are using unimaginable ways to achieve their macabre atrocities,” he said.
“This is nothing new. In the past [traffickers] have used cats and dogs to pass drugs to prisoners. Now it seems they are using pigeons to carry in their wares from the outside.”
Birds Behaving Badly: Carrier Pigeons Transporting Drugs for Years
Indeed, prison police director Paul Bertozzi may have had a point to make.
It turns out, back in 2013, the Argentinian prisons service warned that traffickers were using special carrier pigeons to transport drugs and other clandestine substances.
The pigeons, they claimed, were making between 10 and 15 trips every day.
Following the investigation in 2013, officers arrested three inmates and discovered a loft which they were allegedly using to receive the small shipments of contraband the birds carried.
They also seized about 15 pigeons which were flying back and forth from a location outside the jail every day.
Pigeons have been used for many years to send messages as far as 1,800 kilometres away.
Their average flying speed is roughly 80km/h. So, they’re pretty efficient for ferrying things quickly.
If you want to read more about birds breaking the law, then read our blog on this pigeon from Germany that was flashed by a speed camera after being caught flying over the legal speed limit for the road.
Rest assured, it did not receive a speeding fine.
The Law and Penalties for Trafficking into Place of Detention in NSW
In NSW, prisons prohibit certain items from entering the grounds. These include items such as drugs, alcohol, mobile phones, tobacco, lighters, syringes, computers and weapons.
If you are caught smuggling or even attempting to smuggle such contraband into a jail, you will face serious criminal penalties.
It is prohibited to bring or try to bring alcohol or fermented alcohol into a correctional centre (prison) without having lawful authority to do so.
Anyone guilty of committing this offence will face a maximum penalty of up to 6-months imprisonment (section 253C(1) Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW)).
It is prohibited to smuggle or try to smuggle without lawful authority, a prohibited drug (of no more than small quantity) or any items that are listed in the schedule to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 (NSW), into a correctional centre (prison).
Anyone guilty of this will face a maximum penalty of up to 2-year prison and/or $2,200 fine.
It is also prohibited for an inmate to use or even possess a mobile phone or any part of one (or sim card or charger) unless he/she has it for a reasonable excuse (section 253F Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW)).
Anyone who commits this offence will face a maximum penalty of up to 2-year prison and/or $5,500 fine.
There is a maximum penalty of up to 2-years imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine for having an offensive weapon or instrument while being inside a prison in NSW unless there is a reasonable excuse for having it. (section 253(1) Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW)).
Click here for an outline of the penalties for possessing an offensive weapon or instrument in NSW otherwise than inside a prison.
Please contact out Sydney criminal law firm office if you have further questions arising from this article. We have available 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.