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$9 million worth of opium discovered in porcelain cats

by Jorge Hernandez on February 18, 2011

Authorities at JFK Airport were inspecting a large shipment of goods from Thailand last month when they became suspicious of the nature of the products – there were more than 30 porcelain cat statues marked as "plastic samples," according to CNN.

Even though the items passed through an X-ray machine and revealed nothing suspicious, the officials decided to open one of the statues just to be safe. In it, they discovered a raw, brownish substance stored in plastic bags.

While field tests didn't yield any more information about the secret stash, it was taken to a lab, where it was revealed to be opium, a common ingredient in the manufacturing of heroin.

"This interception illustrates CBP's [the U.S. Customs and Border Protection] ability to utilize the right mix of intelligence, technology, and officer expertise," director of CBP New York field operations Robert Perez told New York Daily News.

Each of the porcelain cats had the drug stored inside. Agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection discovered a total of 205 pounds of opium, which they estimated to be worth approximately $9 million.

"Most times we find cocaine and heroin," John Saleh, spokesman for the agency, told CNN. "Opium was kind of unusual to find, especially in that quantity."

The shipment was addressed to a New York City address and the investigation is ongoing.

Opium is mainly grown in Afghanistan and Myanamar. It is an opiate that is smoked, eaten or injected. It has highly addictive properties and been used for centuries, according to The Clear View Haven Center. It is occasionally subscribed for pain relief in some countries, because it can present an alternative to morphine.

The effects of the relief are equivalent to approximately 16 Percocet and can result in physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

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