Page images


SMUGGLERS (From a painting by the author)
The peak in the background known as La Sorciére is used as a landmark by the smugglers sailing from

Martinique, twenty miles distant.


N O MATTER how clever the smugglers may IV be, no matter how much ingenuity they display in divising means to run their contraband in or out of a country, they seldom succeed for long. Of course we cannot say how many are successful to the end, how many have escaped the law and the customs officers, how many have retired on the money they have made illegally, or how many are still carrying on their trade. But if anywhere near as many manage to evade the officers, and run their contraband in without being detected, as those whose careers of smuggling are brought to an end, then must their numbers be legion. Few people know how many smugglers and would-be smugglers are caught each year, each month, each week or each day. Few realize the enormous value of goods that are seized by the government as contraband. To publish such data would be a bad policy on the government's part, and to broadcast data regarding the means by which smugglers had been trapped by the customs would be still worse. Hence the officials are as secretive as to their methods, their ways and their ingenuity in detecting and bringing the smugglers to justice as the smugglers themselves.

If we could only know all the facts, could only tell all the details of the other side of the smuggling story, we would find it as interesting, as fascinating, if not more so, than the smugglers' narratives.

Unfortunately for us, and most fortunately for both the officials and the smuggling fraternity, we cannot do this. But there are some matters that are worth telling, some stories worth repeating, and some details of how the law matches its powers against that of the smugglers, which may be revealed without betraying either secrets or confidence or aiding lawbreakers.

Of course a great many smugglers are apprehended by the revenue officers on duty at the docks and piers. The majority of these are men and women who are not professional smugglers, but travelers and tourists who take a chance and try to bring in personal effects free of duty.

Many succeed, but as a rule, those that do, bring in a very inconsiderable amount of merchandise of no great value, and on which the duty, if paid, would scarcely be worth the trouble of the extra labor involved in a minute search of all the bag

gage. A few cigars or cigarettes, a few yards of silk, or even a little jewelry, may be and are smuggled in on practically every steamer arriving from abroad with passengers. No doubt the amateur smugglers who bring them in feel highly elated and quite proud of their success. But they have nothing to crow over, for they are technically winked at, and should the officials suspect that any considerable amount of merchandise was concealed in their luggage, these petty smugglers would very promptly come to grief. Others, and very wealthy and fashionable persons of high social standing and unquestionable integrity in other matters, are inveterate smugglers. Despite their ability to pay duties, they falsify their declarations and brazenly attempt to bring in thousands of dollars worth of furs, gowns, clothes and jewelry. And fortunately these people very seldom succeed in their intentions. The customs officers are keen judges of character and human nature, they note the slightest appearance of nervousness or anxiety on a passenger's face, and they have learned by bitter experience that a person's social or business standing is no criterion of honesty, when it comes to smuggling. Moreover, they possess advance information regarding passengers about to arrive, information that, if it were known, would surprise the persons to whom it related. Should a traveler abroad purchase largely of valuable things,

« PreviousContinue »