They may be called smartphones, but one man came up with a very dumb way to smuggle them.

A 51-year-old Ukrainian citizen was caught at Kyiv’s Boryspil airport on Dec. 10 trying to bring 26 iPhones into the country by concealing them in his pants.

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine announced the arrest in a humorous Facebook post on the same day, writing: “A flight passenger from Dubai lost several kilograms after undergoing a check at Boryspil Airport. This metamorphosis was due to the fact that he had to say goodbye to brand new iPhone 11s, which he hid in his pants and fastened with a belt.”

The imaginative smuggler was detained and all the iPhones were seized. Besides losing the phones, the man faces a fine of up to $30,000.

The customs code of Ukraine stipulates that goods worth over €10, 000 have to be declared to the State Border Guard Service and that passengers are only allowed two mobile phones for personal use.


Smartphones are the most common electronic product seized at the border.

Last year, the customs service of Boryspil seized 12,000 smartphones coming from Hong Kong and arriving as cargo. Stories about the smuggling of Apple products regularly pop up on the customs service Facebook page.

According to Vitaliy Melnychenko, who leads Apple’s official distributor in Ukraine, ASBIS Ukraine, this popularity is due to the high price of top-shelf Apple goods sold legally. That leads people to smuggle them and resell them to Ukrainians.

Last year, Melnychenko estimated that one in two iPhones sold in Ukraine was actually smuggled.

Valery Makovetsky, who owns the Foxtrot chain of electronics stores, and Taras Mazur, who leads the Brain Electronics Network, believe the problem is even greater.

They claim that no less than 90% of the market consists of smuggled goods because they are sold at a lower price and so companies can sell more of them and make more money.

“Those retailers who work in a white way have a rather low market position, as an iPhone can be found for 20% cheaper (in Ukraine),” said Mazur.

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