Members of the public who make purchases through illicit WhatsApp drug delivery services could face up to six months behind bars and a Dh50,000 fine, a legal expert has warned.
Authorities have sought to close the net on criminals sending unsolicited messages to promote the sale of items such as illegal painkillers, hashish and crystal meth.
In March, Dubai Police said 100 drug traffickers had been arrested as part of a clampdown on online offenders.
The force said criminals would typically share GPS co-ordinates of the location of the drugs, which were usually buried in the ground in remote areas.
Emirati lawyer Mohammed Al Najjar, said tough punishments were in place to deter people from taking drugs.
“The Emirati legislator was aware of the new methods of selling and buying the drugs and added an article in the new law No. 30 for 2021 on combating narcotics and psychotropic substances to crack down on buyers,” Mr Al Najjar told The National.
“Article 74 of the law said people who are found guilty will be restricted from wiring or depositing money to others for two years after serving the punishment. Such punishment will make people think twice before committing the crime.”
Those selling and promoting illegal drugs through online channels can be fined up to Dh1 million, in addition to the prospect of a custodial sentence.
A Dubai resident, who asked not to be named, said he received a WhatsApp message from an unknown number offering illegal substances.
“The message was in Arabic and the sender offered the sale of tramadol, hashish, Lyrica and crystal meth. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do,” said the resident.
He searched on Google for the sender’s number and discovered it was based in Pakistan.
He called Dubai Police, who asked him to take screen grabs of the messages and report them through their e-crime platform before blocking the number.
“I heard before about these messages but didn’t expect to receive one,” he added. “I ignored the message and blocked the number. It is a new and easy way to promote drugs.”
Dubai Police said parents should speak to their children to advise them what to do if they receive such messages.