Drugs in rugs

BEIJING Tue Jun 24, 2008 8:38pm IST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Drug traffickers in China's far west are smuggling heroin into the country woven into carpets imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan, state media said on Tuesday.

Customs officials in Xinjiang, which borders both countries, have seized more than 30 carpets containing some 50 kg (110 lb) of heroin in the last several months, the official China Daily said.

"The traffickers have become more sophisticated and are using new techniques," it paraphrased Wang Zhi, deputy director the General Administration of Customs' anti-smuggling bureau, as saying.

"Wang said traffickers first inject heroin into plastic tubes of 1-2 mm diameter and wrap them with colorful natural or synthetic fibers to make them look like yarn. They then weave them into the carpet along with normal yarn," the report said.

The new smuggling method was making detection harder as equipment normally used by customs' officers was not up to the task, the newspaper added.

While drug smuggling into China from the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia -- including Laos, Myanmar and Thailand -- had fallen, drug trafficking was on the rise from the Golden Crescent, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The opposite used to be the case about two years ago," Wang said.

"Drugs smuggled into China are in turn sent to other destinations. Heroin and cocaine usually go to Australia and Europe, while new drugs such as Ecstasy are more likely to be smuggled into South Korea and Japan," the report added.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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