Have you ever snuck a food item into your classroom or hid a few chip packets into your coat before walking into a cinema? All of us have done little acts of ‘smuggling’ just out of boredom or to save a bit of cash. However, when we talk about smuggling on a global level where the stakes are high it becomes a whole other situation. 

You’re probably aware of the fact that smuggling is described as the illegal transportation of goods, cash, and even people. But what you might not know is that this crime has been around for a very long time. In fact, the first reports of this activity propped up around the 13th century owing to the high taxes that were placed on products. Since that time trade between different regions has become more common and as a result taxes have skyrocketed to increase profit margins. Besides this, smuggling illegal goods is also an extremely lucrative industry which thousands of people participate in. 

This article will give you a compilation of 10 of the most smuggled things in the world and although some of these items are obvious, others might surprise you: 

10. Illegal Drugs.

Drug smugglings are seen quite regularly on the news, whether it’s a small packet that someone tried to sneak past the airport police or large vans full of a variety of illegal products. It is an unfortunate fact that the drug trade is an industry that has its networks deep into our society. The sheer staggering numbers of this trade are enough for this item to earn its top spot on the list. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the amount of cocaine alone that was seized in 2018 came up to around 1300 metric tons or 1.3 million kilograms. However, figuring out the exact quantity of drugs that get smuggled every year is a near-impossible task so it’s likely that this insanely high number is just the tip of the iceberg. 

9. Electronics

We live in a digital world, that much is certain. Whenever a new smartphone or a fancy new gadget comes out there’s always a rush of people trying to get their hands on it. But most people don’t really have the spare cash lying around to buy one of these expensive gadgets but where there’s a demand, there will be a supply. 

Smartphones are the most sought-after item in this category and the Indian Cellular and Electronics Association stated that the loss in taxes caused by this illegal trade is leading to an annual loss of Rs 2,400 for the government. With new models coming out seemingly every other day and the prices of these models skyrocketing, it’s clear that this illegal trade is only going to grow. 

8. Gold

You see this item on the news all the time, mostly in the form of a catchy headline that reads ‘Man gets Caught with Gold Bricks Costing Thousands of Dollars’. Gold is currently one of the most profitable metals on earth due to its allure so it’s not surprising that news stories like this keep propping up. Just recently in the span of a year from 2019 to 2020, a total of 550 kgs of gold bars in total were seized at the Kerala airport.

Smugglers have come up with creative ways to hide gold bars from the inner lining of suitcases to even concealing gold with the help of a wig. Once this gold gets past the airport it becomes tough to regulate it in the open market which is why law enforcement agencies are doing everything they can to improve their detection tools. 

7. Alcohol

Now you might be wondering why alcohol is on this list when it seems like such a readily available item for adults. However, most alcohol that isn’t produced locally tends to get quite a high markup which of course, opens the way for more smuggling. Alcohol smuggling or ‘Rum-running’ as it’s known has always been quite popular especially in areas of prohibition. 

Even though alcohol bottles can be more difficult to smuggle, there are certain ways that these individuals use to slip past the system and get their luggage across the border. Addictive products like booze, drugs, and cigarettes are in high demand which makes the illegal trade of these goods particularly difficult to deal with. 

6. Cigarettes

Cigarettes are another one of those items with huge markups and a massive customer base willing to buy a bunch of smuggled goods. The cigarette smuggling industry is massive with the WHO calling it the ‘Worlds most legal smuggled good’ in the past. Current estimates show that around 600 billion cigarettes are smuggled annually with the pandemic causing a rise in this number. 

Cigarette boxes are a relatively low-risk item to smuggle because a few boxes aren’t enough to get you in serious trouble. This might be the reason why some people have estimated that smuggled cigarettes make up a majority of all the cigarettes on the market. 

5. Arms

Learning about the sheer amount of illegal weapons that get transported each year can be quite surprising. The Council on Foreign Relations of United States announced that in 2012 around 1 billion USD worth of weapons was being smuggled globally. This number has probably risen significantly in the past few years however getting a definite amount will take a great deal of research. 

Although the number of arms and ammunition smuggled to areas of conflict is higher than that smuggled into other areas, the smuggling of weapons happens everywhere in the world even in places where owning a firearm is legal.

4. Exotic Animals and Their Products

The news of the extinction of the Western Black Rhino declared by the IUCN in 2011 was a grim reminder to all of us that the trade of exotic animal products is alive and thriving today. Many individuals tend to view exotic animals as decorative items to be placed on walls or sat in a cage and some even consume ground-up animal horns because they believe the huge misconception that these items have rejuvenating properties. 

When you think of ‘exotic animal smuggling’ you’re probably imagining a few pelts or some ivory tusks when the reality is far from that. There are massive loads of illegal animal products moved every year which leads to more animals being killed to meet the demands. Even with many strict bans getting placed by the governments of these nations, poachers still manage to squeeze their way around any restrictions and this is sadly driving many of these beautiful animals to extinction.

3. Fabric

Now here’s a surprising item that you probably never expected on a list like this. We usually expect illegal or extremely expensive items to be at the top of a list about smuggling but the fabric doesn’t seem like any of those. However, consider the fact that good quality fabric is not cheap. Imported cloth typically goes through rigorous checks to ensure that the fabric meets the high standards set by the company and as a result, the price of a few feet of cloth is just not viable for many individuals. 

And that’s where the smuggling comes in. Cheap and of course low-quality fabrics are prime targets for this because stopping this type of smuggling can be very difficult. This item may not be as infamous as some of the others on this list but it can’t be denied that fabric smuggling is a huge issue. 

2. Counterfeit Goods

There’s always that one shady makeshift shop that you see in the corner of the road selling numerous counterfeit items with an often misspelled logo whether Gucci, Louis Viton, supreme, or some other high-end brand. Whereas the real thing might cost a few thousand dollars and then some, most of these counterfeit items are well under fifty dollars. 

Many of the smugglers that supply these goods are also responsible for transporting more dangerous items like drugs to increase their overall. Additionally, the huge variety of counterfeit goods available is probably why around 3.3 % of goods on the market are pirated. 

1. Human Smuggling

The sad reality of today’s world is that human smuggling is way more common than ever before. The United Nations stated that in 2010 around 90 % of immigrants that came into the United State of America were smuggled in illegally. Many individuals all around the world get smuggled across borders simply because they were unable to legally get a permit or the documents just took too long. People that migrate to a foreign country with no prior preparation are fleeing extremely desperate situations and many of these individuals are exploited in many ways. 

However, the most startling statistics come from human trafficking. Many people tend to believe that the slave trade ended a long time ago but it is still alive and well today. Some people have put the number of trafficked individuals in the world at roughly 40 million people. Organizations like the UN have launched massive movements such as the ‘Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants in an attempt to stop this abhorrent crime once and for all but we still have a long way to go before human smuggling becomes a thing of the past.