A woman in China was found hiding 202 computer chips and nine smartphones inside her fake baby bump during routine border check, reflecting the flourishing underground market for chips and cheap processors that has sprung up in China.
The woman was crossing into Zhuhai in the southern Guangdong province of China where she was arrested for smuggling semiconductors inside a pregnancy prosthetic. An officer who was part of the team that arrested the woman during routine border check said that he became suspicious of the woman after preliminary questioning.
“She was about five or six months pregnant but had a really big belly that looked like she was in the third trimester,” an officer is quoted to have said by Bloomberg.
China reportedly has a massive grey market that involves hundreds of middlemen and remains riddled with second-hand chips.
An underground market for semiconductors has sprung up in China since 2020 when a global shortage of chips started disrupting supplies of everything from smartphones to vehicles. A move by the United States to impose curbs on exports of high-end semiconductors and chip-making equipment to China, partly to stop them from being used for military purposes, has further disturbed the market.
China’s massive grey market predominantly deals with second-hand or out-of-date chips that can fetch prices 500 times the original cost.
Apple’s iPhones are typically smuggled into China because they are more expensive there than in Hong Kong and Macau due to import taxes. Smugglers are routinely caught at the border with dozens of devices.
On its own, China produces approximately a quarter of all semiconductors on the planet.
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