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Wednesday, December 08, 2010, 12:40 pm PT (03:40 pm ET)

Housewives recruited to smuggle Apple's iPad into China

Fourteen housewives in China were recently busted trying to smuggle 88 iPads into the country, signifying demand for Apple's tablet in China — and the lengths to which scalpers will go to sell them.

According to a report in the Guangzhou Daily, customs officials made the bust worth 950,000 yuan, or about $143,000. The 14 women were carrying 340 mobile phones, in addition to 88 iPads.

The women were reportedly being paid 200 yuan, or about $30, to run the devices across the border and help smuggle them in to China. All 14 of the women were detained.

The Wi-Fi-only iPad launched in China in September, but the 3G capable model is still not yet available in the nation of over 1 billion. Customers have been forced to import the 3G model, but the Chinese government recently began collecting a tax on iPads carried into the country — even those for personal use.

Smugglers have reportedly been recruiting residents without criminal records to draw less suspicion in crossing the border. One of the women that was apprehended allegedly had 65 phones strapped around her waist, and another 20 inside a handbag she was carrying.

This week, a report indicated that there is strong demand for the iPad in China, with stock limited in stores. In addition, the iPhone 4 and 11-inch MacBook Air are also facing shortages in the Far East.