A mule or courier is someone who smuggles something with him or her (as opposed to sending by mail, etc.) across a national border, including smuggling into and out of an international plane, especially a small amount, transported for a smuggling organization. The organizers employ mules to reduce the risk of getting caught themselves, while often profiting most. The mule typically gets paid an amount which is small compared with the profit, but large for somebody with little money, so that it seems to him or her an easy way to make money.
Sometimes the goods are hidden in e.g. the bag or vehicle of an innocent person, who does not know about this, for the purpose of retrieving the goods elsewhere.
In the case of transporting illegal drugs, the term drug mule applies. Methods of smuggling include hiding the goods in a vehicle, luggage or clothes, strapping them to one's body, or using the body as container.
The latter is mainly applied for heroin and cocaine, and sometimes for ecstasy . It is often done by swallowing latex balloons (often condoms, or fingers of latex gloves) or special pellets filled with the goods, and recovering them from the feces later (such a smuggler is called a swallower or internal carrier; the practice is also called body packing or body stuffing). It is a common, but medically dangerous way of smuggling small amounts of drugs: a mule may well die when a packet bursts or leaks.
People are sometimes X-rayed at airports etc. to check for drug pellets.
With regard to traffic from South America to the US, the US Drug Enforcement Administration reports: "Unlike cocaine, heroin is often smuggled by people who swallow large numbers of small capsules (50-90), allowing them to transport up to 1.5 kilograms of heroin per courier.. However, elsewhere cocaine is smuggled this way.
In 2003; statistics confirmed that over 50% of foreign females in UK jails were drug mules from Jamaica. . Nigerian women also make a large contribution to the remaining figure.
In all, around 18% of the UK's female jail population are foreigners, 60% of which are serving sentences for drug related offences - most of them drug mules.
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