Contraband - NZ Customs


Flushed with success


When Customs Officers find out that someone has swallowed or inserted drugs to carry them through the border, a long waiting game ensues, which has had, up until now, a distinctly unsavoury ending. 

Long-suffering Customs Officers accompany the person to the toilet, sometimes repeatedly over several days, to collect all the drugs – usually in thumb-sized condom-wrapped pellets – as they are expelled into the toilet. Then they have to wash the pellets carefully by latex-gloved hand to use later as evidence in court. This can happen up to a dozen times a year. Unsurprisingly, it is not a popular task, and it is one that has to be done carefully to avoid the threat of disease or contamination.

But life in the detention environment has just got a lot easier with the early Christmas present of a new portable drug loo which automatically collects, washes, sanitises and drains the pellets, and delivers them as clean as a whistle into evidence containers. At no point does the Customs Officer have to physically touch the drug pellets. He or she still accompanies the person to the loo to make sure they don’t try to conceal the drugs elsewhere or swallow them again (it does happen), but at least the unpleasantness, odour and risk is minimised.

The drug loo has viewing windows in its bowels that let the Customs Officer keep the drugs within sight at all times, which is important for evidentiary purposes.  It has wheels, so that it can easily be taken to different locations if there is more than one person in custody, or by car to different sites. It is not a stylish piece of equipment, being functionally built of solid stainless steel to withstand the abuse you might occasionally expect it to receive under such tense circumstances. And it’s certainly not advanced computer technology, but it is nevertheless a welcome innovation that will make difficult situations easier for both the detainee and the Customs Officer in the long run.