Man Caught at Toronto Airport Smuggling 5000 Leeches in Suitcase Worth $40,000

Imagine this. You’re a customs officer in Toronto and doing some rounds with your trusty beagle. All of a sudden, your beagle sits down next to a suitcase. As per procedure, you open the suitcase and are confronted with 5,000 squirmy little bugs. That’s exactly what happened to one officer recently at Toronto’s main international airport.

Man Caught at Toronto Airport Smuggling 5000 Leeches in Suitcase Worth $40,000
5,000 leeches were found in a suitcase at Toronto. Photo: Wikipedia

Technically speaking, the incident occurred on October 17, 2018 with a passenger who returned from Russia. While this was a while back, trial is set to start soon. Due to some technicalities, the authorities aren’t labeling him as a smuggler but rather a leech importer. Quite a large importer at that.

Believe it or not, leeches actually have a medicinal use. Dubbed leech therapy, the leaches can be helpful in plastic surgery and other micro-surgeries. You can look up some images of leeches in medicine online. I won’t include any here to spare the most queasy of our readers.

The leeches in question are worth over $40,000. On the higher end, a leach can retail for $10 a piece. That means these leeches in total could have sold for as high as $50,000. However, the man claims he was going to use the leeches to help his orchids grow better. He claimed his intended use was for their waste water.

Authorities weren’t buying it given the vast quantity of leeches.

The Real Questions

How did the leeches survive the flight? It hasn’t been revealed whether these leeches were brought in the hold or carried onto the aircraft. If it was carried on, one would hope that officials scanning luggage in Russia (or a transit point in between) would have picked up on the transportation of these creatures. Somehow, that didn’t happen.

Man Caught at Toronto Airport Smuggling 5000 Leeches in Suitcase Worth $40,000
One would have guessed the leeches would have been picked up at airport security. Photo: CNN

There are no direct flights from Russia to Toronto. With a connection in between, these were some long flights for the leeches. Leeches have been shown to have a high tolerance to changing temperatures and can survive up to one year without blood. Amazingly, the leeches also survived the physical stress from the pressurized aircraft and altitude changes.


Don’t transport leeches on aircraft without completing the required documentation. The same is true for really any kind of living organism you plan on taking on a plane.

This also presents a hazard to the other passengers and crew. Should the leeches have been in a carry-on and somehow have wiggled free in flight, you can bet there would be someone who would have freaked out. It also seems like a great way to get banned from an airline.

Ultimately, this story probably could have been a lot worse. Had they been discovered midflight and panic ensued, this could have led to a costly diversion. We’ve seen some pretty interesting diversions in the past, but one as a result of 5,000 leeches would have taken the cake. Unless, of course, Samuel Jackson was on board!

Man Caught at Toronto Airport Smuggling 5000 Leeches in Suitcase Worth $40,000
There’s a bit of a “Snakes on a Plane” feel to this story. Photo: IMDB

What are your thoughts on this slimy situation? Let us know in the comments!