Customs and airport security police detained three women who were trying to fly to Europe with almost two and a half kilos of cocaine in capsules in their bodies on Thursday and Friday.
Two Paraguayan women were caught on Friday trying to board an Iberia flight to Rome via Madrid. A third was detained before getting on a plane to Barcelona on Thursday.
Customs officials got suspicious when the women got visibly nervous during questioning and decided to take them aside for further investigation. Scanners found nothing suspicious in their baggage, but economic court judge Juan Pedro Galvan Greenway gave the go-ahead to perform a body scan, which revealed they had drugs inside their bodies.
They were taken to a hospital in Ezeiza, where doctors found that one was carrying 946 grams of cocaine and the other, 823 grams.
They could face up to 12 years in jail if convicted.
The previous day, customs agents had also detained a 20-year-old Argentine woman in the Ezeiza airport. This time, she was found to have 78 capsules of cocaine in her body. She remains in custody, and her case is being handled by a separate economic court judge, Marcelo Aguinsky.
She was booked onto a Level flight bound for Barcelona and, like the women detained Friday, drew the attention of agents because she seemed especially nervous. Her erratic behavior and some details about her trip caught their attention — for example, the fact that her passport and tickets had been issued very recently.
She was making a nonstop flight, a common practice among people who ingest drugs in order to smuggle them. This makes it likely that they will excrete the capsules, which could lead to them having to wash them and ingest them again, according to Argentina’s customs.
A body scan revealed the woman had a condom with 11 capsules of cocaine in her vagina, each weighing approximately 10 grams.
At that point, the airport security police and customs notified the National Economic Criminal Court N°6, and Aguinsky ordered the woman be transferred to an Ezeiza hospital. There, under police custody, she was held incommunicado while the foreign bodies detected in the scanner images were removed.
Growing drug trade
These turned out to be 67 more capsules, giving a total of 78 — 742 grams of cocaine. The woman was released from hospital but remains in custody in the Comodoro Py Federal Courthouse. She was charged with smuggling drugs for commercial purposes, which is punishable by up to 16 years in prison.
“The news is a tragedy in itself because, even if that person is part of a criminal organization, she is at the same time a victim,” José Glinski, head of the Airport Security Police, told agency Télam, about Thursday’s case. “The risk she assumed is too big.”
Asked about how the agents initially detected that the woman was suspicious, they said that they couldn’t quite explain it. “It’s like a sixth sense.”
Argentina has been growing both as a domestic cocaine market and a transit route, according to drug trade experts. In April, anti-narcotics agents in Salta province seized nearly 350 kilos of cocaine in a tanker, part of what they believed was a gang operation to move cocaine to Buenos Aires via provincial routes.
Drugs are increasingly moved from Argentina’s northern borders to Rosario via land routes and then transported onwards via river, although land routes to Buenos Aires and crossing into Paraguay are also common. In its most recent Global Cocaine Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) describes this as the “Southern Cone route”, saying that it is “a channel which has recently gained importance”.