Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Namibia: Now Human Hair Joins Cocaine Smugglers' Bag of Tricks

All Africa

A joint operation by Namibian and South African customs authorities and the Namibian Police's Drug Law Enforcement Unit this week foiled an attempt to smuggle cocaine into Namibia inside a consignment of human hair.

A 21-year-old Angolan national who is studying at the University of Namibia was arrested at the Hosea Kutako International Airport on Wednesday in connection with the alleged plan to smuggle the suspected cocaine into the country, Detective Chief Inspector Barry de Klerk of the Drug Law Enforcement Unit said yesterday.

The suspect is set to appear in court today.

The method that he is accused of using to import cocaine into the country is the first of its kind yet to have been detected in Namibia.

De Klerk said the suspect was at the airport to pick up supposed excess luggage that was sent to his mother, who had visited the Brazilian city of São Paulo - a notorious link in the cocaine-smuggling route between Southern Africa and South America - a month ago.

Contained in the luggage were 76 packets of human hair, which is used as hair extensions in the hairstyling trade.

A test on the hair showed, however, that the packets also contained cocaine, De Klerk said.

According to him, one of the latest methods used by drug traffickers in a bid to escape detection is to dissolve cocaine and then to soak some other supposedly innocent product - such as human hair in this case - in it.

At the end destination of the smuggling journey, the cocaine is retrieved from the objects used to conceal the drug, De Klerk said.

He said it had not yet been possible to determine the weight or the value of the cocaine allegedly contained in the packets of human hair that were intercepted on Wednesday.

These have been sent to the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia for analysis.

By Werner Menges

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