August 22, 2014 Leave a comment
On Monday, Norwegian Customs officers were on duty along the Swedish border when they pulled over a suspicious looking vehicle bearing Swedish licence plates.
Their suspicions were confirmed when they quickly discovered that the unfortunate Swede was indeed a smuggler — and that it wasn’t the first time he had been busted by Norwegian authorities.
The Customs officers ended up seizing no less than five hundred kilograms (or 1,100 lbs.) of the dastardly Swede’s goods before they could end up on the streets of Oslo, Bergen or wherever in Norway he was destined.
Five hundred kilograms of what? Marijuana? Cocaine? Heroin? No; none of these.
“Inside his getaway vehicle – a Volvo car,” a Norwegian news site reported later that same day,”was 500 kilogrammes of raw, frozen chicken.”
“The Norwegian customs team was not particularly surprised by the Swede’s haul, however, as he has been caught doing the exact same chicken run eight times before,” TheLocal.no noted in its report.
The incident came days after a Danish visitor was stopped by Customs with 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lbs.) of meat crammed into his car.
He claimed that he was on his way to attend a football game in Trondheim, and that he planned to take the undeclared meat back out of the country with him.
This might seem absurd in Canada, where chicken is one of the cheapest of meats. But in expensive Norway, where groceries are about 50 percent more expensive than in Canada and restaurant prices are more than double what we would pay, cheap food has become a lucrative black-market commodity.
One reason for the high price of Norwegian food: the protectionist policies that Norway maintains to shield its agricultural sector, despite years of complaints from other countries throughout Europe.
Under these policies, imported frozen chicken is subject to tariffs of up to $18 Cdn. per kilogram.
Contraband chicken has consequently been a problem in Norway for years. Back in 2006, Norwegian Customs — which does not screen 100 percent of travelers arriving from low-risk countries, but instead relies upon the honour system and spot checks to ensure compliance — seized a total of 25 tons of meat of various kinds, rising to 39 tons the following year.
In addition to tariff evasion, contraband meat is considered a concern because it is “virtually never refrigerated and conditions of smuggling cars are unhygienic,” a Norwegian news site reported in 2008.
“The cars are filled with meat on the floor and in the seats,” a customs official told the reporter.
It’s not just meat that traffickers stand to make money from in Norway. Norwegian Customs’s 2011 annual report tells the tale of two inept Swedes who tried to offload 250 kilograms of illicit butter to passersby in a small town north of Oslo for 500 kr. ($89 Cdn.) per kilogram.
“That they were attempting to sell the butter outside the Prix supermarket in Beistad indicates a real lack of market analysis,” the report sardonically noted. “Supermarket customers notified the police, who in turn notified Customs and Excise.”
“The two smugglers admitted having brought the butter in via Storlien the night before. If the sales had been better, the smugglers would have pocketed NOK 125,000 [$22,180 Cdn.] for the whole consignment.”
The “butter bust” happened as Norway’s heavily protected dairy industry suffered a bad year. The barriers intended to protect the industry left Norway without a backup source to make up for the domestic industry’s poor output, resulting in empty shelves during what both bloggers and the business press called the Norwegian Butter Crisis.
As the Christmas season approached — and demand for butter for Christmas baking soared — reports began to appear of people offering hundreds of dollars online to anyone who could hook them up with some butter.
Yogurt has become another heavily trafficked item in Norway’s expensive, protected dairy market. A 2013 Swedish news report explained how one man had been caught multiple times by Norwegian Customs trying to sneak a total of 720 kilograms (1,590 lbs.) of yogurt in from Sweden.
The same man had been previously stopped trying to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of cheese into Norway in the trunk of his car.
In another case last year, police were notified of an overloaded Volkswagen Passat arriving on a ferry from Sweden. The vehicle turned out to be loaded up with 800 containers of yogurt, along with large quantities of chicken and powdered milk.
Despite the driver’s pleas that he had purchased all 800 containers of yogurt for his personal consumption, his purchases — valued at more than $3,500 Cdn. — were confiscated and destroyed by customs officers.