More than 260kg of material that was packaged as glass cleaning and repair material arrived at Turkey’s busiest airport on a plane from China. Drug sniffing dogs signaled that the product might possibly contain narcotics. Utilizing a handheld material identification device, agents were quickly able to determine – within minutes – that the product was actually the chemical used to manufacture bonsai, a synthetic cannabinoid. The raw material seized could have been used to create 260 tons of bonsai and, if it reached the streets, would have been distributed to potentially millions of people.
Bonsai is not the only threat to Turkey. A passenger traveling from Columbia was stopped by customs enforcement officials when they suspected he might be carrying narcotics. The customs officers noticed that the passenger’s luggage appeared to have been modified and didn’t look right. The suspect had hidden several flat packages of white powder in the structure of the luggage, in false compartments. Upon inspection, these packages contained a white powdered substance. In a field analysis performed on the spot by a material identification device, the white powder in the packages was identified as cocaine, 490 grams of it. The market value of the quantity of cocaine seized was determined to be approximately 2,200,000 liras (US $400,000).
And if those busts weren’t big enough, a shipment of bananas arrived from Ecuador; a drug sniffing dog signaled that the shipping container might also be carrying narcotics. Customs Enforcement personnel of the Ministry of Trade then inspected the cargo further, and found a large number of packages containing white powder. The handheld analyzer quickly identified the white powdered substance as cocaine. Over 32kg of cocaine was seized, with an estimated street value of approximately 16,500,000 Turkish liras, or more than US $3 million.
There is a robust narcotics trade involving sources all over the world, with massive amounts of drugs hidden in luggage, in commercial shipments of produce, and more. The key to putting a dent in this traffic is active interdiction, on-the-spot, real-time detection at the airport with quick and reliable, credible results that will stand up in court. This is now achievable with the portable, quick-response material identification devices utilizing the latest technology.
The latest handheld chemical analyzers integrate dual technologies – Raman and FTIR – for orthogonal analysis of a broad range of potentially dangerous solid and liquid chemicals. Raman and FTIR are highly specific and reliable identification methods, each with strengths and limitations. By integrating both Raman and FTIR into a single analyzer, operators harness the power of each technology while enabling a broader range of chemical identification, providing complementary and confirmatory testing in a single, field-portable device. We previously wrote how U.S. airports are using spectroscopy instruments for incoming drugs.
As noted in the three examples above, effective narcotics detection and interdiction is often achieved by a unique team effort involving skilled enforcement officials, trained drug-sniffing dogs, and the latest handheld material identification devices.