Where do you hide your meth? Apparently hollowed-out comic books are a great place. Australian police uncovered an international drug smuggling ring that utilized comics to illegally move three kilograms of methylamphetamine (also known as Ice) from the United States to Australia. The drugs’ worth totaled more than one million dollars. Nine properties across several Gold Coast towns were raided, leading to the discovery that also included cannabis and other unnamed illegal items.
The alleged “ringleader” is a 49-year-old Gold Coast man who traveled to the US more than a dozen times since October 2018 and arranged for the drugs to be secured in the comic books. Nine others were charged in the smuggling ring along with their leader.
“We think it is coming from southern California, and as you’ll appreciate, that is very close to the international borders of Mexico and such,” Detective Inspector Brendan Smith said. Smith also stated that his team is working with Homeland Security and local American police on the case. Charges totaled 40 crimes and included trafficking and supplying dangerous drugs, money laundering, importing a border restricted drug, possession of dangerous drugs, stealing, possession of drug utensils, and possession of proceeds of a drug offense.
Smith also stated, “This operation has dismantled a significant criminal network and removed over 30,000 hits off Queensland streets.”
This isn’t the first time comics were used as a vessel for shipping illegal drugs. Back in 2009, two brothers in Denver ran a drug ring that distributed millions of dollars of methamphetamine in first editions of Batman and Superman books encased in protective plastic covers. One book was reportedly worth about $3500.
So why comics? It seems the thought process is that they can easily be distributed by courier or mailing services, and that the packages will not be torn apart, especially if they contain issues worth a chunk of change. With more than one drug ring using comics, though, who knows if this changes how books are shipped and if more stringent laws for packing and claiming contents will be added.
As for the comics, once items are seized in a raid such as this, they are held as evidence until the charges are handled in court and sentencing is complete. Most evidence is destroyed afterwards. If the smugglers hollowed out the books, it’s probably not even worth the risk for law enforcement comic fans to sneak a few copies for their own collections.