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High North

Getting their man. In the end

Greenland’s war on drug-smuggling is going high-tech and lowbrow
Business
Low-tech, high-ick (Photo: Greenland Police)

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Stopping drug-smuggling in Greenland is notoriously difficult: the country’s six customs agents and two sniffer dogs must police all of the ports along its 44,000km of coastline as well as its six international airports.

Police estimate that about 200kg of cannabis, primarily in the form of hashish, is attempted smuggled into Greenland each year, mostly aboard ships, though often drugs are sent through the post or smuggled in by body packers, individuals who swallow narcotics in balloons or condoms. 

About a quarter of the drugs are stopped, according to police. Now police and customs authorities are employing a pair of new tools they hope will help prove effective in their efforts to detect drug-smugglers – and, quite probably, prevent those they nab from ever trying it again.

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In December, customs agents stationed at Kangerlussuaq Airport, which receives three-quarters of the 80,000 aeroplane passengers arriving in Greenland each year, began using body scanners to detect whether individuals suspected of transporting drugs were acting as body packers.

The scanner is already proving its worth: customs agents report that after two months in use, as many as five people have been charged with drug-smuggling.

While police describe the two-million kroner device as “a good tool” for customs agents, they are relying on a decidedly lower tech, if higher ick, method for obtaining the drugs once the suspect is taken into custody.

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After being forced to take a laxative, the suspect is given a bucket and a pair of rubber gloves. Once nature takes its course, the smuggler “has the pleasure of picking out the bundles and cleaning them” for the police, Johan Westen, a police spokesperson in Nuuk, told sermtisaq.ag, our sister website. (The image above shows recovered drug packets.)

A similar procedure is in place at Nuuk Airport, according to Westen. There, however, individuals suspected of having swallowed drug packets are taken to the local hospital for scanning.

Customs authorities declined to discuss whether scanners were needed Greenland’s other international airports. Perhaps the hope is that the threat, in the end, is deterrent enough.