Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Brisbane Drug Story

                                                           The Brisbane Drug Story                     
                                        Written 1/2011, rewritten 01/26/2016 unedited
                                            It really happened, and we could be in jail
                                                                  Howard Yasgar
       In 1986, our Company, Automotive Parts Industries, was doing business with several parts manufacturers in the Orient.
      We constantly needed to find new and more reasonably priced items for our monthly “Rebuilders Supply” catalog which we were mailing out internationally.
       Two of our biggest oriental suppliers were located in Taiwan. One company was called “PAAL” and the other was called “LIKW”, and both these two companies were absolutely terrible suppliers, but they were the best out of a whole bunch of bad companies we had found in Taiwan.
       Thus, because the companies in Taiwan were all so bad, every year, I would have to go to there too straighten out the problems. Thus while I was in the orient, I was always looking for other and better suppliers.
       Doing business with oriental companies had been a real eye opener for me, as their culture didn’t allow them to do business the same way we do.
      One of the problems was, every order we placed with the PAAL Company had some kind of technical mistake that required us to rework the parts in Miami, and this was very costly for us.
      The other company we used in Taiwan was called LIKW, they were making iron parts and castings for us, until we caught them selling our parts to our competitors cheaper than they were selling to us.
       Because of these problems, I was learning a bitter lesson regarding oriental culture, honesty was not something they were terribly concerned with.
       To be able to travel to the orient without disrupting the management of our company too much, I tried to do it when our company was closed down for the holidays.
       We had always closed our company down for the Christmas and New Year holiday’s so I found that this was a good time to make the trip to the orient. Another reason was that my wife Katherine was working in the freight forwarding industry in Miami and it was also convenient for her to take her vacation around Christmas time and travel with me.
       So in 1986, we decided that we could spend a week in Taiwan taking care of my business and then take another week and travel to some other nearby oriental countries like Korea and Japan.
      However in 1986 we had a customer who was from Brisbane Australia. His name was Neil Metcalf and he had a fairly large sized company in Brisbane called Truck Electrics. Neil had traveled to the U.S. several times to do business with my good friend Barney Kaplan in Detroit, and Neil started to come and do business with us in Miami before flying back to Australia. It was because of this that my wife Katherine and I became good personal friends with Neil and his wife Roselyn.
      Neil knew that Katherine and I were traveling every year to Taiwan and they started pressuring us to come and visit them in Brisbane Australia after we had done our business in Taiwan.
      Neil said, he would love to show us his business, and then take us into the Australian outback.
      My wife Katherine was working at the time for the Stephen’s Diz freight forwarding company in Miami, and she was told that she could have her two week vacation at Christmas time, which perfectly coincided with our travel plans, so she set to work making an itinerary utilizing Quantas Airlines.
     She found that their flight to Australia, stopped over in Bangkok Thailand, thus we could spend a day or so there as well. Everything sounded good, and Katherine came up with a perfect travel plan for us.
      We would fly to LA from Miami, and then on to Taiwan, We would stay in Taiwan for four days, giving me time to argue with our suppliers, then we would fly with Qantas Airlines to Bangkok Thailand for two days which would give us enough time to get a feeling for the country and do a little sightseeing there.
      From Bangkok Thailand we would fly to Sidney Australia where we would spend a couple of days, giving us a chance to see the Sidney Opera House. Then from Sidney, it was on to Brisbane Australia, to see Neil and Roslyn Metcalf of Truck Electrics. Neil said they wanted to take us to the Australian outback, and then we would fly back to Miami.  
      Once I knew exactly what we were doing, I called my friend Barney Kaplan in Detroit. Barney and his wife Sara Lee were also Neil and his wife Ros’s good friends, and they had already visited them once in Australia.
     When Barney’s wife heard we were going to Australia she said that she had a small gift for Ros, and would we take it along on our trip. She said, it was sort of a thank you gift for how nice Neil and Ros treated them when they were in Australia. I said yes, and Sara lee sent a small package by UPS. When the package arrived I saw that it was about eight inches square and about one half an inch thick and it was soft to the touch like a blouse or a scarf.    
      In Miami we made an inventory of our luggage and I opted to use a large Samsonite suitcase and a smaller reddish colored, soft leather, fold up type garment bag with pockets. I thought the fold up soft leather garment bag would be good for my shirts and pants, and it had several zippered pockets for any small souvenirs we would pick up along the way.
     We were preparing to leave on December 12, to arrive in Taiwan on Dec 14, Katherine booked rooms at the Sheraton Lai-Lai, as we had stayed there on past trips.
     After my business in Taiwan was completed, Katherine said that she had wanted to visit her freight company’s agent in Taiwan, as she always communicated with them from Miami, so she went to visit them and say hello in person.
     Eddie, our regular Taiwan cab driver took Katherine to the freight forwarders office, where She with the manager and his staff. It just happened that one of their big Taiwan customers, a manufacturer of cosmetics saw Katherine and said he wanted to use her in one of his photo advertising shoots. They offered to have a limousine pick her up at the hotel in the morning, and Katherine agreed. In the morning they came and picked her up and gave her a beautiful oriental silk dress to wear. The photography took about half a day, and Katherine returned to the hotel around lunch time, they had given her the silk dress as a gift.
     We spent the rest of the day as Tourists in Taiwan, not realizing that the photo shoot had set our travel arrangements back by a day. That evening we returned to our hotel, thinking we had really accomplished our mission and we were ready to leave for Thailand.
     The next morning we arrived at the Airport to find the Qantas to Thailand booth was empty. Katherine and I were the only ones at the airport. The entire Quantas Thailand section of the Airport was closed down. That’s when we realized we had screwed up out schedule, and after a little checking of the Airline Schedules, we found we were a day late for our flight.
     Fortunately, the same flight was available the next day, so went back to the Sheraton hotel, and became tourists again for another evening. The next morning we returned to the Airport, checked in our luggage and flew to Bangkok Thailand.
     We stayed at the Hotel Regent in Bangkok, and I bought several cartons of Thai cigarettes. They cost almost nothing in Bangkok and I wanted to bring them back to Miami to give away as gifts.
     When we packed our luggage, to fly to Sidney Australia, I filled up the zippered pockets in my leather fold up garment bag with all the packs of Thai cigarettes that I had purchased.

But when we arrived in Sidney, the fold up luggage with the cigarettes, failed to appear with our other luggage, so we hung around the airport for a while, waiting.
     Finally the Qantas representative told us not to worry, he said, “the bag would be found and delivered to our hotel in Sidney.”
       He was correct, the next afternoon the bag was delivered to our Hotel in Sidney as promised.
       I took the bag up to our room and did a quick inspection to see if the cigarettes were still there, and they were, and everything looked OK.
      After spending a couple of days in Sidney, and touring the Sidney Opera House, it was time to catch our flight to Brisbane to see Neal and Ros Metcalf.
      We arrived at the Brisbane Airport, and again, just as had happened in Sidney, the soft leather fold up bag with the Thai cigarettes, failed to arrive with our other luggage.
      Katherine and I waited at the luggage carousel until everyone had left the area, we thought that it
certainly was strange to have the same luggage missing twice.
      We carried our other suitcases to the Customs inspection station, and told the inspector that we were missing a bag.
     Yes, “I know he said, they are bringing it out now.”
     At that moment I saw another Officer carrying it out from behind the luggage carousel. He had a
Beagle dog walking with him, and the dog was sniffing the bag.
     The dog sniffed out your bag the Customs inspector said. What do you have in it?
     Just clothes and some cigarettes from Thailand, I said.
     I told him that it was strange that this same bag was missing from our flight from Thailand to Sidney also.
     He looked suspiciously at me, and started to unfold and open up the bag.
     The first thing he found was the small soft package given to me by Sara lee Kaplan as a gift for Ros Metcalf.
     “What is this package,” the Inspector asked?
     “It's a gift for our friend’s wife who lives here in Brisbane. It was given to us by friends in Detroit.”
     “What’s in the package,” he asked? “I don't know it’s a gift,” I said.
     “You mean to tell me you travel half way around the world carrying a package you don't know what’s in it.”
     By this time I was getting more than a little irritated, and I said, “I bet it's a blouse, you can feel it with your hands, You, don't have to open a package like that, when it's so obvious.”
     As we spoke the other officer came out of an office carrying a test tube containing a clear liquid.
     “What is that,” I asked?
     The Officer was now unzipping the pockets that had the packs of Thai cigarette’s, and in the bottom of the pocket was some white powder.
      I was a little concerned as I didn't remember ever putting any talcum powder or anything white in the zippered pockets.
     The Officer said, “If this liquid turns Red, you have a real problem, as he put some of the white powder in the test tube and shook it up.”
      After a few seconds the color turned Purple
.      I have to admit that at first, it looked Red to me, and I became concerned.
      “Pack up your stuff, you are free to go,” he said.
      “Do you think someone removed the bag in Thailand, and put some Drugs in it, and then removed the bag in Sidney?” I asked the Officer.
     He didn't answer me.
     We were very happy to leave the airport, and not go to jail.


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