Man Dies at Tokyo Airport With Kilo of Drugs in His Stomach

A man has been confirmed dead after attempting to smuggle a large amount of drugs through an airport in Tokyo through a process known as “body packing.”

An Israeli national has been reported dead at the Tokyo Airport as the result of an overdose after authorities said he tried to smuggle over a kilogram of cocaine and other stimulants in his stomach.

According to an article in the Mainichi, a national daily newspaper in Japan, authorities with the Metropolitan Police Department filed charges with public prosecutors Wednesday, accusing a suspect in his 50’s, who was not named in the article, of violating the Stimulants Control Act by swallowing multiple wraps of illegal stimulants and getting on a flight from France to Japan with the intent of bringing the drugs into the country for distribution and sale. 

The Mainichi said the deceased man collapsed inside the plane on January 2 as it arrived at the Tokyo Haneda Airport From France. He was taken to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead. 

The suspect reportedly had 89 individual packets or wraps of cocaine and other stimulants. Medical staff told the Mainichi that none of the wraps burst, so it was unclear how the suspect succumbed to drug poisoning, but authorities with the Metropolitan Police Department’s narcotics and firearms control division surmised the drugs must have seeped out of the wraps somehow. 

The process of smuggling drugs this way is referred to as “body packing.” A study on this practice by the National Institute of Health defined body packing as “the way of psychoactive substances smuggling by swallowing of carefully prepared packages with drugs into the gastrointestinal tract or by insertion them into the vagina or the rectum, especially in order to avoid finding them by the custom service.”

During the study, researchers administered 60 wraps of cocaine totalling 500 grams to an otherwise healthy 29-year-old Polish male to monitor and observe how his body would react to the introduction of so many foreign objects.

“During the 37-hours stay in our department the patient was monitored (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature), laxatives and oral fluids were administered. All the packages were evacuated through the natural way and it was followed up by the control abdominal radiography. No symptoms of acute cocaine intoxication or any other complications were observed,” the study said.

Now you might be wondering, as I was while writing this, how exactly a person might go about smuggling drugs inside their body without ending up dead, as this man did. Well, some light internet digging netted me a few answers.

A Vice profile on a Dutch cocaine smuggler illustrated how easy some believe this process to be. The girl, who was given the moniker Sharon, told Vice she began smuggling drugs from the small Caribbean island of Curacao to the Netherlands because of how common and easy it was in the area.

“A lot of people would ask you to smuggle for them if they knew you were Dutch. But I always told them that I wouldn’t. Well, until I ran into a friend I knew from back home,” Sharon said to Vice. “She asked me if I would smuggle some stuff for her and I decided to do it. Everybody did it back then. Every flight would have at least ten or 20 people with drugs on it. Even little old grandmas were selling drugs in Curacao.”

Packing the drugs is very important, as evidenced by the case at the Tokyo Airport, because if the packaging breaks it can cause overdose and death extremely quickly. Sharon told Vice that in her case, the cocaine was packed in plastic, wrapped in a latex glove then taped shut with a particular kind of packaging tape. Afterwards, additional layers of plastic and latex were added. 

“It was really well packaged,” Sharon told Vice. “Some people had a hard time getting it down, though. They’d practice with a piece of carrot or something like that.” 

Sharon also attested that she had a friend die at the age of 19 from a packaging burst. The kicker is Sharon was under the impression that she never took this risk, because she only ever swallowed boiled cocaine. I was unable to confirm if there was any accuracy to this information. 

 “That was pure coke, though. I only swallowed boiled coke, which won’t kill you. Or, at least, that’s what they told me,” Sharon said to Vice. “I’ve seen a lot of drug mules get dropped off at A&E [the emergency room], actually.”

The test for whether packaging would hold up on its journey from esophagus to toilet bowl was simple, according to Sharon. She would simply drop it into a cup of water and if it sank to the bottom, it required repackaging. If it floated, down the hatch.

“It’s not that complicated,” Sharon told Vice.

1 comment
  1. The link given in this article is not to a “study” by the NIH, it is to English translation of a Polish journal citing a case of a Polish man who was busted for body packing and it didn’t really provide a definition of body packing, but rather gave a brief explanation of what it was for the reader before discussing the busted mans treatment of laxatives as well as x-rays.
    Ignorance is bliss, until you die of of an overdose…
    Many ‘plastics’ are highly permeable to smaller molecules. If they think about, most ‘pot-heads’ have demonstrated this when the terpenes from their weed permeate through the crappy sandwich bag they purchased it in and into the surrounding air, risky their liberty to some cop with a good sense of smell. Not only are the ironically named ‘glad’ bags literally full of holes, sandwich ’saran’ wrap is also surprisingly full of holes too – when looked under a high powered microscope blind freddy can see these holes. Yet saran wrap is one of the wraps that ‘body packers’ use!!! Other plastics like Mylar are manufactured in such a way as to specifically avoid permeability and are thus a lot denser.

    It’s just pure luck that a lot of these smugglers survive their trip; since if the packages don’t split, even when wrapped in multiple layers of crappy plastic some drugs can still seep through the ‘pores’ – as probably happened to the guy in Japan.
    “…The kicker is Sharon was under the impression that she never took this risk, because she only ever swallowed boiled cocaine. I was unable to confirm if there was any accuracy to this information.” Boiled, rinsed, recrystallised – cocaine HCl is cocaine HCl and still has the same lethal dose. In fact less pure cocaine would be slightly safer in this case, since the common manufacturing impurities are not particularly physiologically active!

    “That was pure coke, though. I only swallowed boiled coke, which won’t kill you. Or, at least, that’s what they told me,”
    … and that’s exactly the sort of BS that smugglers tell their mules “it’s totally safe”.
    100% pharmaceutical grade (eg. Merck brand) Cocaine HCl, which i should add is extremely rare in the illicit market, can still be deadly. The lethal dose of Cocaine is extremely variable, with some people dying from doses in the tens of milligrams (usually via a heart attack or stroke due to predisposition), but usually from doses in the high hundreds of milligrams. However there’s numerous highly credible published reports of people surviving the consumption of acute cocaine doses over one gram (1000mg). If you want to try a poison, start low and go slow; which is probably a great tip for prospective smugglers too – if you going to swallow a sh*tload (LOL) of drugs, it might be worth sampling a bit prior to make sure you’re not particularly sensitive to that particular drug/poison.

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