Phones, Cigarettes, and Esrogim Top Customs Seizures

A passenger waiting by his luggage in the departure hall at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)
A passenger waiting by his luggage in the departure hall at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)

An Israeli who attempted to smuggle 17 iPhone 7 devices was arrested, officials at Ben Gurion Airport said Wednesday. The phones had been found several weeks ago in the suitcase of a tourist who arrived in Israel from London. Many of the phones had been hidden in secret compartments in his bag. Officials confiscated the devices, and the individual is likely to be issued a fine of tens of thousands of shekels.

Smartphones are just some of the items the Customs Authority has seized from travelers at Ben Gurion Airport this year. Officials are kept especially busy during the summer travel months, as Israelis returning from abroad bring in all manner of goods – some of them altogether illegal.

Among the most popular items for smuggling are cigarettes. During September and October, authorities confiscated 2,000 pieces of luggage, and in 630 of them they discovered cigarettes which were not declared. A total of 8,922 packets of cigarettes were confiscated, at a value of over NIS 2 million.

Also confiscated were 581 cellphones, with their owners permitted to bring them into the country – after payment of duties and fines amounting to NIS 500,000. Also confiscated were 36 drones that cannot be flown in Israel due to security considerations, as well as 14 luxury watches.

Despite the presence of drug-sniffing dogs in the passenger arrival area of the airport, smugglers still occasionally try to bring their wares into the country. Also caught at the airport were individuals who tried to bring in dozens of esrogim and hundreds of aravos. The import of esrogim is permitted from specific countries, but they must be declared and inspected by agricultural officials. The import of the rest of the arbaah minim is illegal.

According to officials, the past summer yielded some of the biggest hauls of illegal items of any season in recent memory.