China’s iPad-smuggling housewives

December 8, 2010, 3:15 PM UTC

Well-dressed women with iPhones strapped to their waists detained by custom officials

Source: Guangzhou Daily

How hot are Apple’s (AAPL) mobile devices in the Chinese market?

Hot enough for smugglers to recruit housewives to sneak them across the border in oversize bags or under their clothes — a trick the authorities have started to catch on to.

One housewife was discovered with 65 mobile phones tied around her waist and 20 more stuffed in a handbag.

According to a report Wednesday in the Guangzhou Daily (English translation), Chinese custom officials have detained 14 housewives suspected of trying to smuggle a total of 88 iPads and 340 mobile phones into China — a bust said to be worth 950,000 yuan ($143,000).

The women were dressed in fashionable clothes with large bags slung over their shoulders, according to the paper. Authorities monitoring surveillance cameras had been tracking the movements of a group of suspicious men in plaid clothes when they spotted a dozen women nearby preparing to cross the border into Shenzhen.

The contraband was detected by X-ray.

Although Apple now sells large numbers of iPhones and iPads in its Chinese stores, some models — such as the iPad 3G — are still not available on the mainland. According to Wednesday’s report, smugglers in Hong Kong have been hiring women with clean records to act as mules. The women are reportedly paid 200 yuan ($30) per crossing, and some are taking home as much as 5,000 yuan ($750) per month.

Via the Wall Street Journal.

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]