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There is a question on travel.SE asking what to do if some culprit planted contraband in your luggage. There are some links provided to cases where this is suspected to have happened.

Being able to wrap your luggage at many airports suggests that there is some risk that this could indeed happen.

Are there documented cases where it has been proven that innocent people were arrested for possessing contraband that was planted in their luggage?

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I thought that wrapping was primarily designed to reduce the risk of theft from the bag. – Henry Jan 19 '12 at 18:34

5 Answers 5

A Slovak citizen was (without his knowledge) planted a detonation device in his luggage as a part of airport security test. The device was not found at the airport and the person was arrested later in Dublin after the Irish police was informed about the device.


Original quote:

Irská policie zatkla Slováka, který nevědomky dopravil do Irska 90 gramů výbušniny, krátce poté ho ale propustila. Výbušninu mu totiž v rámci nepodařeného bezpečnostního experimentu do zavazadla dali slovenští bezpečnostní agenti.

My translation:

Irish police has arrested a Slovak citizen who unknowingly transported 90 grams of explosives into the Ireland, but released him shortly after. It showed up the explosives were given into the luggage by a Slovak security agents in an experiment which went awry.

The person was released shortly, there was no offence brought against him, but as the question is about arrest, it seems to qualify.

Together with DJClayworth's answer it seems that the risk of being planted a contraband from police / security personel might be comparable or higher to that from a smuggler.

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+1 for "it seems that the risk of being planted a contraband from police / security personel might be comparable to that from a smuggler." I would go so far as to say it looks like you would be at greater risk :p – Chad Jan 20 '12 at 14:21

This is explosives rather than contraband and assuming you take a court verdict as proof, then the Hindawi Affair is certainly one incident - in that case, a man planted explosives in his fiancee's luggage. Might not be exactly what you are looking for, since the planter was known to the victim.

In this story from Narita International Airport in Tokyo, drugs were planted and then removed by customs officials to check their sniffer dogs' effectiveness - it became a story when they missed removing one. It is another case that isn't quite what you are looking for, as the planting was for 'training purposes'.

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I think the OP was looking for something where the device was planted after the bag was entrusted to the airline like in the "training mishap." But where the bag owner was arrested and charged with possession. – Chad Jan 19 '12 at 19:02
I agree. I'm not claiming this is a great answer. – DJClayworth Jan 19 '12 at 19:15
Also I would definitely qualify a timed explosive device as Contraband. – Chad Jan 19 '12 at 19:22
@Chad - I'm not sure it qualifies that way legally. But I don't even play a lawyer on Internet :) – user5341 Jan 20 '12 at 16:27
@DVK - Contraband: "goods or merchandise whose importation, exportation, or possession is forbidden" - Active timed explosive devices are pretty much forbidden globally... And definitely forbidden in air travel. – Chad Jan 20 '12 at 16:38

A case has just been reported in the Guardian: Australian holiday winners duped into smuggling crystal meth

An Australian couple were unwittingly conned into becoming multi-million dollar drug mules after winning a dream trip to Canada with new luggage thrown in.

The elaborate con duped the couple by taking them to Canada as the winners of an all-expenses paid trip, which included accommodation and new suitcases.

But after a dream week in North America, the couple became suspicious about their bags on their return to Western Australia and reported themselves to customs.

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OTOH, this couple wasn't arrested. – ChrisW Oct 26 '13 at 9:02
@ChrisW yeah, that's true. – Andrew Grimm Oct 26 '13 at 13:57

There's a story of it happening here: 'Blind mules' unknowingly ferry drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border

The victim was arrested and convicted; and then the case was dismissed when a judge noticed the same thing happening elsewhere:

Senior U.S. District Judge David Briones, a 17-year judicial veteran, had noticed the pattern in the cases.

"I got information about [District Judge Philip R.] Martinez's trial this week with almost the exact same facts: Two bags in the trunk, each with about 50 pounds tied together, and the individual was again inspected at the [commuter] lane," Briones told Andres' attorneys and the prosecutors at the status hearing that afternoon in May.

"I, quite frankly, think that an injustice has been done," he said. The judge dismissed the case against Andres, and he was released that day.

In this case, though, the drugs were planted in the victim's car (not in their luggage).

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Roger Levans of Queens, NY was arrested when two bricks of cocaine were found in his bag on a return trip from Guyana.

Levans said he was strip searched, and jailed until his family could put up $100,000 bail.

Three months later, the feds dismissed the charges.

“It was determined the luggage was broken into and drugs planted by a third party into his suitcase,” said Michael Borrelli, Levans’ attorney.

Another news source

He filed a lawsuit as well Levans v. Delta Airlines.

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Downvoter, can you please explain what is missing from this answer so I may improve it? – Sam I Am Jul 12 at 6:25

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