(JOHANNESBURG) — A tip prompted South African police to run a scan on a Lebanese traveler flying out of the country, where they found 220 polished diamonds in his stomach.
The 25-year-old traveler, who was not immediately identified, was arrested and administered a laxative to retrieve the gems, which were valued at $2.3 million. He was arrested Tuesday night at the O.R. Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg.
“He was intercepted just as he was about to go through the security checkpoint. Then took him for a scan where we discovered where he was hiding the diamonds,” said Capt. Paul Ramaloka of the South African Police Service. Police recovered the diamonds after giving the smuggling suspect laxatives.
Ramaloka said investigators began following the man after receiving inside information about a possible diamond smuggling ring. They say he is a Lebanese national who was planning to fly to Dubai.
In South Africa, one of the world’s top producers of diamonds, investigators are always watching closely for diamond smugglers. Ramaloka believes their efforts have deterred much of the crime.
“The trend of people smuggling by ingesting substances used to be quite common but has now fallen off due to increased security,” Ramaloka said.
He said the last such incident was in January of this year when another Lebanese national was arrested at the airport with more than $1 million worth of diamonds in his stomach. Police are investigating if the cases are related. They are still working to find the source of the diamonds recovered this week.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN