Flying With Contraband Items? Face Deportation Or Worse

29/12/2008 – Flying With Contraband Items? Face Deportation Or Worse

With all eyes focusing on airport security over the past few days I’d like to address an every day scenario Customs Agents around the world handle, passengers traveling with illegal items. Illegal items range from the benign Cuban Cigars entering the United States to weapons being ferried in creative ways to all points around the globe.

Each and every day airline fly passengers across boarders, crossing oceans and spanning continents…and each and every day some passengers choose to fly with illegal items. The penalties for attempting to enter a country with these illegal items ranges from simple confiscation and fines to the more problematic deportation and jail in a foreign nation.

If you choose to try and enter a country with contraband or illegal items know that getting caught is a significant risk. The high profile cases in the media tend to focus on passengers traveling with drugs and explosives, however many countries have dogs trained to sniff for other items. In an airport you’ll see many dogs, don’t assume they are bomb or narcotic patrol dogs. Law enforcement agencies around the world use dogs trained to sniff out agriculture, tobacco and cash.

Before traveling to a foreign country find out what you can legally transport into and out of that country. Some countries have certain prescription and over the counter medications on their illegal lists. You may be required to declare cash over a specified amount when entering a country. It may be illegal to transport certain foods or plants into or out of a country.

…and I have seen someone get deported for shipping Cuban Cigars back to the United States in their checked baggage.

Keep this in mind when you are playing the odds that you can contraband and illegal items into a country you are traveling to, or through. It may bring a quick end to your journey.

Below are two US Customs incidents I have photographed.

The first image is of a Nigerian woman trying to bribe two US Customs agents with counterfeit money…not only is bribery illegal, but bribing with counterfeit money is both stupid and illegal…after her bag was detected by a narcotics dog at New York’s JFK International Airport.

The second image is of a man being escorted by US Customs agents, at Philadelphia International Airport, to a flight back to London after he was stopped for trying to enter the United States with multiple boxes of illegal Cuban Cigars

Happy Flying!

a police officer checking out a woman's luggage

a group of police officers walking with luggage


  1. Not if you are a credentialed journalist working in the secure area with the express consent of the Federal Agency you are documenting.

    As a photojournalist I spent a number of years documenting ‘homeland security’ for clients such as Time, Newsweek, Businessweek, Bloomberg News, UPI, The Boston Globe and a number of other major news outlets.

    Happy Flying!


  2. “It’s also illegal to photograph Federal Agents at work. There are signs posted.”

    And which law(s) would the photographer be breaking by taking such photos?

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