Fruit smuggler's excuse a lemon


Border officials undoubtedly have an important job -- they are responsible for ensuring New Zealand is protected from the trafficking of drugs, weapons and biological hazards.

But one official encountered a passenger attempting to traffic a far less dangerous cargo than most criminals -- and in a far less intelligent way -- when he spotted a woman from Hong Kong wandering through customs with six lemons stuffed down her pants.

The lemons were brought to the attention of Auckland International Airport's border security staff after one of their biosecurity detector dogs sniffed out the trouser-inhabiting fruit.

Ministry for Primary Industries north passenger and mail manager Craig Hughes says the woman had deliberately concealed the lemons, and confirmed she had not declared them on her arrival card.

"Her excuse was that the lemons were good for her liver and other illnesses," he said.

"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," he said.

The woman was forced to take the next flight back to Hong Kong after the lemons were found.