African 'sorcerer' snared in police sting operation

Dubai police arrest a man in an undercover operation and he is charged with trying to dupe people into paying for black magic.

An African dubbed "the sorcerer" by Dubai police has been arrested in an undercover operation and charged with trying to dupe people into paying for black magic. Police said they had received tip-offs that the man was offering to heal people's illnesses, solve marital problems and bring them financial gain - for a fee. His activities amounted to deception and theft, the charges say.

Dubai's anti-financial crimes unit dispatched teams to catch the man in the act. One agent posed as a jeweller suffering financial woes, while a second claimed to have domestic problems. Investigators said the suspect, who has not been identified, mixed a series of potions and spells, telling them the concoctions would change their lives. Salah Buassiba, who led the investigation, said the man claimed to be able to communicate with evil spirits and the devil.

It is not the first case of its kind. In February, two men were swindled out of Dh250,000 they believed could be doubled by "magical powder" in Abu Dhabi. The victims ended up with a bag full of counterfeit notes. The suspects, an Emirati and an Omani, were arrested after informing police they had handed over the money to two men, identified by the court only as Africans, who told them they possessed the power to double their cash.

They pleaded guilty to being involved in black magic. They were joined in the dock by a colleague who allegedly helped facilitate the phony transaction. The colleague, who was not identified, was also charged with dealing in black magic and pleaded guilty. Last month, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments said it regularly received calls from people who either blame sorcery for their problems or are considering using it to try to solve them.

"When there is trouble in their lives, people unfortunately attribute it to black magic instead of using common sense," said Sheikha Radia Salem, an Islamic adviser at the authority. "People search for quick fixes to their problems, and instead of praying and patiently waiting for their prayers to be answered, they head to a witch or sorcerer." Through sermons and lectures, religious authorities regularly warn people against seeking the help of so-called black magic practitioners and witch doctors, as both are forbidden in Islam and illegal under UAE law.