Customs officers at Germany's biggest airport are increasingly likely to find illegal contraband in the cargo hold than on passengers, new figures show. And smugglers can be very creative.
"There's nothing you can think of that doesn't happen." It could be a customs officer's motto, and it was repeated on Wednesday by Albrecht Vieth, director of the main customs authority in Frankfurt, as he presented his office's 2016 figures.
The main takeaway: more and more drug dealers are using the postal system to serve their customers. The number of postal drug seizures at Frankfurt Airport increased by some 230 percent last year - to 4,515 incidents.
"We're registering an extreme shift in drug smuggling, away from travel to postal traffic," Vieth commented, before adding dryly: "The Darknet says hello." Given that some 85,000 tons of mail arrive at Frankfurt Airport every year, it remains a mammoth task.
Some 5,296 kilos of drugs were seized at Frankfurt Airport in 2016, though the vast majority of it (4,827 kilos) was khat - the chewable plant found mostly in East Africa with a mild amphetamine effect, and whose consumption is legal in many parts of the world. On top of that, the officers found around 100 kilos of cocaine and 160 kilos of amphetamines (including more than 39,100 ecstasy pills).
Frankfurt Airport has a reputation as a focal point for the world's illegal drug trade. Some 35 "high-risk" flights land here every day, which officers have to pay special attention to because of their country of origin.
This is where the more spectacular finds are often made: among the 34 drug couriers arrested at the airport last year, one was a young woman from Colombia who had hidden a kilo of cocaine inside her breast implants. Other hiding places included loudspeakers, baby blankets, and a mini-pool table. "There are no limits on creativity - we have to be prepared for everything," said Vieth.