I’ve always said that if you’re going to be a smuggler, be a good smuggler. This is not a story about good smugglers, seeing as how they were caught, but they were at least inventive with trying to get past customs officials at the Hong Kong Airport by using a box of Corn Flakes.

Swim bladders that look like corn flakes

If you take just a quick look at that image without any scale to judge against, those could pass as Corn Flakes. But, if you look more closely, something is clearly wrong. That would be because those are not flakes made out of corn. In reality, they are dried swim bladders from the Totoaba fish, an endangered species found in the Gulf of California.

Totoaba swim bladder is a delicacy in many parts of Asia, which explains why the confiscated shipment, which originated in Mexico, was headed to mainland China. As the package was going through an x-ray screening at customs, officials noted something wrong with the box of Corn Flakes. After opening and searching the box, they found the swim bladders and arrested the smugglers. The men are now facing up to two years in prison and payment of a fine totaling $640,000.

There’s no doubt that the smugglers’ fishy deed was motivated by the financial gains to be had if the swim bladders had reached their final destination. Although the total weight of the smuggled goods was barely over one pound, the criminals would have netted a profit of nearly $40,000.


Steve Pame

Steve Pame

A part-time graduate student and high school teacher, Steve enjoys just about anything that makes him forget all the student loans he'll never be able to pay back. He enjoys visiting his extended family, spread throughout the world, whenever he has a chance.