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Khat smuggler busted

Release Date: 
May 9, 2010

Chicago - Customs and Border Protection officers at Chicago O'Hare Airport stopped a 37-year-old American citizen returning to the United States from the United Kingdom with more than 82 pounds of khat in his luggage. The man was arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for prosecution.

Customs and Border Protection officers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport arrested a man transporting more than 82 pounds of khat in his luggage on Sunday.

Customs and Border Protection officers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport arrested a man transporting more than 82 pounds of khat in his luggage on Sunday.

The man said he had been approached by Khat traffickers in the U.S. and hired to fly to the United Kingdom and return with suitcases filled with khat. He was instructed to deliver the khat to individuals in the Minneapolis area, which has a large Somali population. The street value of 82 pounds of khat in Minneapolis is more than $36,000.00.

Khat is typically chewed like tobacco. The fresh leaves, twigs and shoots of the khat shrub are chewed and then retained in the cheek and chewed intermittently to release the active drug. The khat shrub grows in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen. Individuals who abuse khat typically experience a state of mild depression following periods of prolonged use.

Taken in excess khat causes extreme thirst, hyperactivity, insomnia and loss of appetite. Khat can reduce the user's motivation and can cause manic behavior with grandiose delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. Khat can cause damage to the nervous, respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems. Khat is classified as a Schedule I drug.

"I would like to commend the CBP officers involved in this seizure and arrest," said David Murphy, CBP Director of Field Operations in Chicago, "The interdiction and arrest of this man further demonstrates CBP's commitment in protecting the American public against the flow of illegal drugs from entering our communities. I am always pleased with our CBP officers' skill and vigilance in this critical area of enforcement."

Travelers are encouraged to visit CBP's Travel Web site to learn which items are admissible and inadmissible to the United States.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017