Dubai Police arrest 280 suspects linked to WhatsApp drug-delivery service

Force uncovers scheme involving unsolicited messages promoting illegal drugs

Police say the 'unknown messages’ method had lured an increasing number of people into drug addiction. Photo: Dubai Police screengrab
Powered by automated translation

Dubai Police have arrested 280 suspected traffickers accused of targeting the public through a WhatsApp drug delivery scheme.

The force, in collaboration with the Economic Security Centre of Dubai, launched a major crime-fighting campaign between June and December.

They say criminals were sending unsolicited WhatsApp messages to users promoting the sale of drugs such as illegal painkillers, hashish and crystal meth.

Just take a screengrab of the message and send it to us
Maj Gen Eid Thani Hareb, Dubai Police

After a purchase was agreed, the buyers would make a bank transfer and the suspects shared GPS co-ordinates of the location of the drugs, which were usually buried in remote areas, police said.

The messages were sent at random from unidentified phone numbers, they added.

Maj Gen Eid Thani Hareb, director of the anti-narcotics department at Dubai Police, told The National his team had seized more than 118kg of illegal substances during the campaign.

“The ‘unknown messages’ style was spreading and lured more people into drug addiction," he said.

"It doesn’t require physical contact between the buyer and seller. It was a challenge for us."

Maj Gen Hareb said officers analysed data from social media platforms to identify those receiving the money in their bank accounts.

The force found suspected traffickers were opening bank accounts using Emirates ID details of workers or children.

“The Economic Security Centre of Dubai identified 810 suspicious bank accounts,” he added. “They were all frozen after 4,560 suspicious deposits were recorded.

“Some parents used the Emirates ID of their children to deposit the money in traffickers' bank accounts in order to buy the drugs.”

About 600 accounts thought to be linked to drug-dealing were blocked between June and December.

“Drug gangs use experts such as chemists to produce drugs, or tech to create new methods to smuggle and promote drugs,” Maj Gen Hareb said.

“The online marketing of drugs has become a challenge but we remain steadfast in our efforts to combat it.”

The force urged people to take screenshots of relevant messages they received and pass them on to police, who were then able to ensure the mobile numbers were blocked.

“Awareness increased among the UAE community due to many campaigns,” Maj Gen Hareb said. “Just take a screengrab of the message and send it to us.”

People who wire sums to buy drugs will be banned from depositing or transferring money to others for two years after serving their sentence, under the Anti-Narcotics Law.

Updated: March 19, 2024, 3:45 PM