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Woman fakes pregnancy to smuggle hundreds of CPUs, iPhones into China

Now that's what we call Intel Inside

If you think you can fool customs officials into believing you are pregnant and not, in fact, smuggling hundreds of Intel processors and iPhones in a prosthetic strapped to your belly, think again.

That's what a woman learned when she attempted such a feat at the Gongpei Port's customs checkpoint in China, according to multiple news reports.

The woman was, we're told, entering the mainland from Macau on November 25 when a customs officer noticed and then inquired about her abnormal posture. The woman said she was about five or six months pregnant, but the inspector was apparently suspicious since her belly looked large enough for her to be in the third trimester.

In a normal circumstance, it's likely not wise to scrutinize the appearance of a purportedly pregnant woman, but when the customs officials used an inspection machine, they said they found the woman was not expecting and was, in reality, using a prosthetic to conceal 202 Intel chips and nine iPhones.

The woman was detained, according to customs officials.

This is far from the first time we've heard of smugglers trying to sneak hundreds of processors past China's customs checkpoints.

For instance, in a matter of a few weeks over the summer of 2021, Chinese customs officials caught three truckers attempting to smuggle chips.

Similar to this most recent incident, Chinese customs agents discovered one truck driver last year with 256 Intel CPUs worth roughly 800,000 yuan (currently $115,000) attached to his calves and around his torso.

The smuggling incidents are part of a significant gray market for semiconductors in China that popped up in 2020 when disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic made chips hard to come by. While some chip shortages have abated elsewhere, the supply situation in China has become more complicated due to recent sanctions by the US meant to curb the country's access to advanced chips and semiconductor equipment.

According to Bloomberg, China's semiconductor gray market is made up of hundreds of resellers who have been known to sell second-hand or antiquated chips for as much as 500 times their original cost.

As for the iPhones, smuggling such devices into mainland China has been a thing for quite some time due to higher import taxes that them more expensive than in surrounding areas like Hong Kong.

As they have with computer chips, smugglers have tried to get the Apple devices past customs officials by strapping a bunch of them to their body, like this guy who had 94 units on his person in 2015.

Now that we can check "woman faking pregnancy to smuggle chips and phones" off the list, we wonder what other creative ways people will try to smuggle high-tech goods. No doubt there are successful examples we'll never hear about. ®

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