One man’s venom, another’s headache!


Customs officials at CIAL recently seized 16 concealed condoms filled with a mysterious content. They tried every method to identify the substance. It was in the end they knew the liquid actually was snake venom. How did they know? Read this hilarious piece to find more.

Pambin kaal pambu ariyum (snake alone knows where its legs are), so goes the Malayalam proverb stressing the point that to be in sync with reality, experience is inevitable. This is particularly so when one has to deal with both poison and those who carry it!

That’s the lesson the security officials at the Cochin International Airport have learnt after the recent haul of yellowish liquid concealed inside 16 condoms. Liquid inside a condom might prompt you to think otherwise. But, in the end, it turned out to be snake venom!

When the condoms were seized from one Solano Rais Jimmi, an Ecudor native and his Nigerian associate on Thursday, the customs officials had no clue what they contained. However, being inside the condoms, no one would dare touch them!

Jimmi and his accomplice were about to board the plane to Chennai after obtaining boarding pass. However, the airline officials grew suspicious when the x-ray machine detected the presence of liquid inside one of the bags.

The customs officials were soon alerted and they dug out the condoms which were stored in the secret pocket of the suitcase which was to go as luggage. “Jimmi was a hard nut to crack. He wouldn’t give out”, said deputy customs commissioner C. Madhavan.

It was then the officials broke open the central portion of the suitcase where they found the condoms filled with liquid. Madhavan does admit it was his first experience. “I’d come across lots of other cases. But, not anything of this kind”, he said.

With Jimmi refusing to spill the beans, the officials wracked their brains and finally concluded that it was hashish oil, leading to the summoning of American Drug Enforcement Kit for testing. “As part of the testing process, we poured the liquid into a test tube and it suddenly burst into smithereens”, one customs official said. Unnerved by the minor explosion, the officials gave it another shot. The outcome was none different from the first one!

It dawned on the officials that the liquid was neither hashish oil nor the holy waters of river Ganges! “It was much later we guessed that the liquid actually could be snake venom,” the official said.
However, none would want to smell or touch the liquid. Meanwhile, time was fast ticking away and the officials were in a quandary; for, it was illegal to detain a passenger, particularly a foreigner, without sufficient reason.

The officials soon discovered that even the Regional Analytical Laboratory (RAL) located at Kakkanad had no technical resource to test the seized liquid. And, that saw forest officials led by DFO Malayatoor B.N. Nagaraj marching into the airport.

The forest officials too guessed the substance could be snake venom though they’re not very sure. With time running out, officials decided to go by a time-tested method to determine the content by injecting it into a hen.

“So, we started searching for a hen and finally found one. Nagaraj injected the liquid (0.1cc) into the hen which, within seconds, collapsed with a splutter. It was thus that we confirmed it was snake venom,” Madhavan said.

If anyone thought the issue got settled there, he got it wrong. For, the officials had to arrive at the value of the venom for which they needed to know the category of the snakes from which it was extracted.
“King Cobra’ venom is worth US$ 3,400 per gram in the international market. That way the liquid we seized is worth `5 crore”, said Madhavan. However, he’s not certain it was King Cobra’s venom since the RAL drew a blank after examining the dead hen.

Finally, as a preliminary step to book a case against Jimmi and his accomplice, the customs officials tentatively valued the venom at Rs 50 lakh. But, it didn’t take a long time for them to realize that the duo actually couldn’t be booked under Customs Act.

“The material evidence is not good enough to prove in a court that they’re attempting to smuggle it to a foreign country. They were only proceeding to board a flight to Chennai”, another official said.

At the end, customs officials wriggled out of the situation, leaving it to the forest officials who booked a case under Wildlife Protection Act and produced the duo in a local court. The problem still doesn’t end. For, the authorities still don’t know the source of the venom.

“We also need to know the category of the snake. We’re looking out for a lab in the State that has the facility to unravel the mystery,” Nagaraj said. For the present, only those snakes which gave out their venom can tell the truth. And, that seems an unlikely affair.

For, no snake has ever spoken in the known human history!

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