A woman who made a bizarre attempt to smuggle six lemons into New Zealand by hiding them in her trousers has been sent packing back to Hong Kong. Sniffer dogs checking passengers at Auckland Airport discovered the fruit as she went through customs, with the woman claiming they were needed for a home remedy to help her liver.
But customs officials were unimpressed with her excuse, saying the citrus contraband was strictly forbidden. They said lemons and other foods brought in from abroad can contain foreign diseases or pests potentially hazardous to the environment.
"She had failed to declare she was carrying any food on her official arrival card, but was found to have the lemons concealed at the top of her pants," said Craig Hughes, of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
"Her excuse was that the lemons were good for her liver and other illnesses. That may be true, but it doesn't justify endangering New Zealand's horticulture industry by illegally bringing in fruit that could harbour pests or diseases."
As a result of the discovery, immigration officials refused the woman entry. She was forced to return to Hong Kong on the next available flight.
"This is an example of MPI and Immigration New Zealand working closely together to curtail biosecurity offences at the border," Hughes added. "We want to send a strong message to smugglers who show contempt for our biosecurity rules."
It is not the first time a passenger has been caught out after using their trousers to smuggle illicit goods into New Zealand. In 2013, a Vietnamese man was arrested at Auckland Airport after customs officials noticed water dripping from his cargo trousers.
He claimed he was carrying water in his pockets because he was thirsty. But when he was taken to a room and searched, officials found he was carrying seven live tropical fish inside plastic bags.