We are now displaying a bodysuit used in a plot to smuggle £5m worth of cocaine into Europe. This fascinating new object was acquired by the museum from the UK Border Force after it was seized on board the 'MSC Orchestra' cruise liner in 2010. A gang of eight Bulgarian and Lithuanian drug smugglers joined the cruise in Brazil destined for Amsterdam. When the ship berthed at Dover on 6th May 2010, UK Border Force officers with a sniffer dog entered the ship to search their cabins. Stashed inside suitcases were eight cocaine filled bodysuits intended to be worn under clothing. In total, officers recovered 35 kilos of cocaine valued at nearly £5m. The eight smugglers were sentenced to a total of 87 years imprisonment.
Holding up the bodysuit with curator Steve Butler before it went on display
When these handmade suits arrived at the museum, the lining had previously been cut by forensics to remove the thousands of pellets of cocaine. We still had to be careful and wear our curator gloves in case of any drug traces. Inside the suits were hand written details revealing the number of concealed cocaine pellets and the smugglers name in the Cryllic alphabet. The suit on display had contained 6 kilos of cocaine and belonged to a 20 year old female smuggler who was sentenced to over 13 years in prison. On display you can also see an evidence bag of the remains of latex and cling film used to wrap the drugs.
This new display is a permanent addition to the Seized! gallery, reflecting the role of the UK Border Force and how they are one step ahead of the smugglers.