China Busts Ring of iPad Smuggling Housewives

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One of the suspected smugglers. Via Guangzhou Daily.

Forget drug mules: Chinese officials recently busted a ring of housewives acting as iPad mules.

Customs officials in Shenzhen caught 14 women, described as fashionably-dressed housewives, trying to carry 88 iPads and 340 mobile phones across the border from Hong Kong. The goods were worth an estimated 950,000 yuan, or about $143,000.

The methods sound similar to drug runners: one of them strapped 65 mobile phones around her waist and another 20 stuffed into a handbag, according to newspaper Guangzhou Daily.

Why the smuggle trouble? Even though the iPad is made in China, only the wi-fi version is available currently on the mainland.

A contraband iPad. Via Guangzhou Daily.

For early adopters, the 3G version is a draw, thus the iPads go out the door for export and back in again illegally. The women, who reportedly earned about $30 for each border run, are being detained.

To stop the in-and-out surge, the Chinese government collects a tax on iPads brought back into the country, even for personal use.

Sources: WSJ, Guangzhou Daily (English Google Translate version).