Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Mr Smith Goes To.Customs House

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Mr Smith Goes To.Customs House

Article excerpt

This is a story with a peg, as it's known in the trade. In other words, it's got a newsy angle. Not only that, but it concerns a false leg. A man called Yenline Neil, who comes from Jamaica, has begun a ten-year prison sentence after being convicted of smuggling [pounds sterling]65,000-worth of cocaine into Britain inside his artificial limb. The jury heard that a sniffer dog at Gatwick took an interest in Neil as ground staff were purring him through Arrivals on an electric buggy. Customs officers put Neil's prosthetic pin through an X-ray machine and then impounded it. In the matchless copy of the agency's court report: "He was later issued with a replacement leg during the run-up to the trial." Neil maintained that he'd taken his leg in for repairs before his trip. He claimed not to have noticed any extra weight when he got it back, although the gear would have given him a slight list.

Customs and Excise are pleased with this success against the traffickers, but a spokesman warned: "They will put the drugs anywhere that they think they have the least chance of being detected."

At Customs House, near the Tower of London, officers have such a collection of smuggling accessories that it's a kind of black museum. Or, given what this kit has concealed, a white museum. On a rare open day at the former royal warehouse, where Geoffrey Chaucer once made a living collecting dues on "sea coal" for the king, I saw some of the ingenious conveyances for contraband. …

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