To avoid being detected in control zones, smugglers resort to ingesting drugs to cross borders. But the rupture of one or more pellets can prove fatal. This Thursday, a South African smuggler transporting heroin estimated at around Rs 18 million died of an overdose.

Every mission is a gamble with death. Each border crossed is a roll of the dice, where health is only a negligible stake compared to the lure of gain. In a frantic race towards astronomical profits, drug lords, devoid of any scruples, recruit reckless mules, ready to play suicide bombers by swallowing narcotics. In this game of Russian roulette, the outcome is sometimes fatal.

This was particularly the case for a South African smuggler, who transported around 80 pellets of heroin worth Rs 18 million to Mauritian soil. Each “egg” contained approximately 10 grams of heroin. He died Thursday of an overdose.

Ingesting drugs is not without risk, confirms a medical source. “When this drug spreads in the small intestine, it is absorbed into its wall and then circulates in the blood as during a traditional drug intake. But the problem is the risk of overdose if the quantity of product is large. The carrier is exposed to an overdose,” she explains.

Sources close to the police and the anti-drug squad agree. They emphasize that when one of the pellets is cracked, as soon as a tenth of this drug is found in the blood, it is an overdose. “There is an acceleration of heartbeat which ultimately causes cardiac arrest. With the presence of drugs, the arteries are destroyed, causing brain disorders, which can lead to death. However, if the mule is taken care of within a short time following the bursting of an egg, it can survive,” they explain.

In the majority of cases, the pellets are filled with around ten grams of drug and the packaging is done carefully with thin plastic. The making of the pellets is done professionally, taking into consideration the mule's ability to swallow them. “The trafficker judges how many pellets and how many grams to swallow,” indicate our sources. Moreover, the manner and techniques for swallowing a certain quantity of drug pellets are done under the supervision of drug traffickers.

How long does it take for a mule to swallow the drug? According to our sources, professional mules take about a day to swallow the drug pellets before flying, while an amateur mule can take up to two days to swallow the same amount of pellets.

What explains why smugglers agree to put their lives at risk? Often in return for money, the smuggler, who is in financial difficulties or especially has unpaid debts, is approached by members of drug trafficking networks, our sources say. The latter offer him the opportunity to win “big” by becoming a mule, they specify.

This risk proved fatal for 35-year-old South African smuggler Jan Du Toit. This welder from Brakpan, Johannesburg, had boarded from Johannesburg airport to Piacenza with pellets of heroin in his stomach. But once he got off the plane on the evening of Tuesday June 4, he was surrounded by customs officers from the Customs Anti-Narcotics Section and agents from the Anti-Drug & Smuggling Unit (Adsu), the flights in from South Africa being, in fact, considered high risk, several passengers and South African nationals having been arrested for drug importation in recent times.

Jan Du Toit was subjected to questioning by customs officials. His luggage was also examined, but nothing incriminating was discovered. As he struggled to convince customs officers and police of the real reason for his trip to Mauritius, he was subjected to a body scanner. The images were clear: foreign bodies, which customs officers strongly suspected of being narcotics, were discovered in his intestine. Under interrogation by Chief Inspector Goinden's men, he quickly broke down and admitted to having ingested around 80 pellets of drugs.

The South African was immediately evacuated to the Jawaharlal Nehru hospital in Rose-Belle, between Wednesday and Thursday, the main mission of the doctors being to evacuate the pellets in his intestine. If 26 pellets were purged, one of the pellets of high purity heroin tore in his stomach, causing the death of the mule on his hospital bed this Thursday, June 6.

Over the years, similar cases of mules dying from drug overdoses have occurred. In March 2020, a Malagasy smuggler, Andriatoky Barisoa, was able to evade customs upon his arrival in Mauritius. But later he was found dead in his hotel room. His body was taken to hospital, where medical staff discovered 24 pellets of heroin in his intestine.

A few years earlier, in July 2011, the decomposed body of another Malagasy national, Mohamed Houssen, was discovered in an apartment in Grand-Baie. An autopsy revealed that one of the heroin pellets he had ingested had exploded in his intestine.

In August 2009, at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Airport, Piacenza, South African smuggler Johannes Jacobus Petrus Viljoen had better luck. Feeling unwell shortly before boarding his flight back to South Africa, he was taken to hospital, where medical staff discovered that a drug ovule had ruptured in his digestive system .

Once his health improved, the smuggler revealed that his mission in Mauritius was to deliver around 60 pellets of heroin to the man reputed to be “the King of the South”, Anil Gooransing, a former sergeant from police. The latter died in 2012, while serving a prison sentence for a drug case.

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