Reality Round-Up: Smuggled Edition

Han Solo

My favorite smuggler: Han Solo (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Although I’m a Star Wars nut now, nothing compares to the first time I exited the theater after seeing the original film. It was the summer of 1977 and I was six years old. And man, was it exciting.

My friends and I played Star Wars for hours and hours. Sometimes we used our action figures and makeshift lightsabers (i.e. broomsticks); other times we used only our imaginations, but it was always fun.

Most of my buddies idolized Luke Skywalker, the Jedi wannabe whose force-guided shot destroyed the original Death Star. But I went a different direction. For me, the real hero was Han Solo, that smooth-talking, quick-thinking narcissist who swooped in at the last minute, sent Darth Vader spinning off into space and gave the former moisture farmer a clear shot. Would Luke have been successful without him? I think not.

Han was also a smuggler, which I found fascinating but only partially understood. In the movie, he mentioned running illegal cargo through Imperial blockades, but I was only six and this meant very little. I understand quite a bit more these days, of course. And I know smuggling isn’t as romantic and exciting as it once was in my young mind. These days it’s more synonymous with drugs than with swashbuckling heroes. I know this should appall or offend me–as a more-or-less law abiding citizen–but honestly, I still find it kind of cool. And judging from some recent news stories, I’m obviously not the only one.

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

A mobile phone and a hands free kit are seen in an X-ray of a Sri Lankan prisoner.

Can I borrow your phone? (courtesy of STR/AFP/Getty Images)

G. Siripala is a 58-year-old prisoner serving a 10-year sentence for theft in a Sri Lankan prison. One night in his cell, he was talking on an illegal cell phone when the guards sprung a surprise inspection on the inmates. Phone smuggling is a growing problem in the country and Siripala knew he could be in serious trouble if discovered, only there was no place to hide it. So he opted for the only available space left.

He stuck the phone and two hands-free sets up his ass.

For a while, his ruse seemed to be working. Guards came in to roust his cell and were on the way out when the unthinkable happened: the person Siripala had been speaking with decided to call back! It didn’t take long for the guards to realize where all the ringing was coming from, and they were not happy. After allegedly beating him, especially in the back, they took him to Colombo’s National Hospital.

X-rays revealed the phone equipment lodged in Siripala’s rectum and doctors were ready to operate when the prisoner interrupted.

“Sir, please give me a moment,” he told them as he started to wriggle and shake. Seconds later the phone and the hands-free sets dropped to the floor. Siripala was kept for observation, discharged a day later and returned to prison.

And for now, the only cell he’ll be using is the one he calls “home.”

NABLUS, WEST BANK

Palestinian inmates in some Israeli prisons are taking smuggling to the next level, including the husband of Dalal al-Ziben. Despite serving 27 consecutive life sentences in maximum security–the result of a Jerusalem market bombing he confessed to planning–he still managed to sneak his sperm out to his wife, who used it to be artificially inseminated.

Nine months later and their second child was born.

Prison sperm did the trick (courtesy of CNN)

Unfortunately for Palestinian prisoners, there are no conjugal visits and smuggling sperm might be their only option. Their wives could find sperm elsewhere, of course, but doing so while married in a male-dominated society probably isn’t the best idea. In fact, I’d rate it slightly less popular than prisoners firing their baby batter out the window to their wives below, all of them holding large bowls to try and catch the stuff. It simply isn’t done.

QUEENS, NEW YORK

We all know how much kids love their cartoon characters and beg their parents endlessly for products where these characters appear. It could be an action figure, a snack food, a piece of clothing, a vitamin supplement, a package of underwear… you name it. These characters are everywhere and make marketing to children far too easy.

Hell, you could stick a Mickey Mouse flag in a pile of horse shit and some kid would probably want it. I use this analogy only because in many cases, the products underneath these cartoon images are crap.

The good news is that thanks to authorities in Queens, there should be less of this crap on the streets, at least in the New York area.

Customs agents recently seized a shipment of cheap Chinese toys emblazoned with the image of Winnie the Pooh. Or should I say illegally emblazoned with the honey-loving bear’s image? Regardless, further investigation revealed a nearly endless stream of toys with illegal images, from Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants to the Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Law enforcement officials were contacted and the perpetrators–most of them Chinese nationals–were arrested and charged with importing goods in violation of copyright and safety laws, smuggling and money laundering.

The bust disrupted an elaborate smuggling ring of Chinese-made toys that has been operating for roughly eight years. Occasionally one of their shipments would get seized, but these smugglers were savvy enough to find creative ways to continue operating. And there is no guarantee this time will be any different.

The important thing to remember, especially if you live in the area, is that these illegal toys may also be dangerous. Some have small parts that young children could choke on; some have paint that’s high in lead; and some could be flammable and produce toxic smoke when ignited. Fortunately, there is a simple solution.

When it comes to purchasing toys, exercise your patriotism and buy American. You’ll be much safer for it.

Judging from these stories–all of which are related to crime, I’m sad to say–it would appear that smuggling is making a comeback. And thanks to the smugglers mentioned here, I find myself romanticizing the profession much, much less.

After all, I’m pretty sure Han Solo would never shove a blaster up his ass just to get through an Imperial checkpoint. Chewbacca, on the other hand…

Posted on February 10, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Han Solo (also my favorite character, btw) would shoot his way out of an Imperial checkpoint, if he wasn’t smooth-talking his way out. Chewie just rips people’s arms off 🙂 And that’s just at losing chess!

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