Stansted Airport: Cocaine worth �10,000 smuggled in oil paintings

AN attempt to smuggle cocaine into the UK hidden in a series of paintings has been foiled by UK Border Agency officers at Stansted Airport.

The 200gms of cocaine, worth as much as �10,000, had been concealed within five abstract oil paintings that had been flown from Colombia.

Sarah Wolstenholme, UK Border Agency Assistant Director at Stansted Airport, said: “It was the smell that initially alerted officers to the possibility that the paintings were more than they seemed.

“Further examination revealed that the smugglers had covered the canvases with a layer of cocaine and then literally painted over the drugs.”

The paintings – each 25cm by 30cm – were destined for an address in south west London.

They arrived at Stansted on April 14 and were listed as shirts and paints, with a value of $1. Investigations into the shipment are continuing.

Sarah Wolstenholme added: “Criminals are prepared to go to elaborate lengths to get drugs into the UK – even relatively small amounts like this.

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“The challenge for us is to stay one step ahead of the organised gangs behind this vile industry. Our highly skilled officers embrace that, working tirelessly and using the latest technology to protect the UK.”


The UK Border Agency uses a range of methods to detect drugs being smuggled through ports, airports and postal sorting offices across the UK. These include:

Intelligence — the UK Border Agency works closely with police forces, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and overseas law enforcement bodies to gather information about potential drug trafficking routes and would-be smugglers. It also acts on information provided by the general public.

Sniffer dogs — detection dogs are trained to identify the scent of particular drugs — and even cash — to intercept illegal contraband.

X-ray machines — these are deployed to spot anomalies in luggage or parcels that might reveal hidden drugs.

Conpass machines — this is a low-dose radiation body-scanner used on people suspected to have concealed drugs internally. Suspects have the right to refuse a scan or a hospital X-ray. However, if they do so, they are likely to be kept in detention until nature takes its course.

Iontrack and Ionscan — these machines analyse swabs taken from a passenger’s baggage to detect traces of drugs.

Anyone with information that might be useful should phone the UK Border Agency hotline on 0800 59 5000.

Pic Border Agency – the pictures found to contain cocaine