Agents foil 190 drug smuggling attempts

Customs director tells of 'continuous conflict' at borders and how many of the cases involved passengers bringing drugs through Dubai International Airport.

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DUBAI // Customs officers stopped 190 attempts to smuggle in drugs during the first six months of this year, a senior official said. Mohammed Mattar al Marri, the executive director of cargo operations at Dubai Customs, said many of the cases involved passengers bringing drugs through Dubai International Airport, while others involved parcels sent from abroad through the postal system.

Speaking at a forum organised by Dubai Police to mark an international day against drug abuse and trafficking, Mr al Marri said the UAE's police and security agencies were working together to try to stop the drugs trade. "Great efforts are being made by the Government to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking into the country as part of the overall appreciation of the dangers of drugs," he said.

He said that advanced scanning equipment at the airport and ports, and specialist units including sniffer dogs and a mobile laboratory introduced recently were helping the authorities to foil increasingly sophisticated smuggling attempts. "There is a continuous conflict at the international borders between security and customs authorities from one hand and smugglers on the other," he said. "There are international networks that rely on exploiting the advanced infrastructure, especially the transport sector, in the emirate of Dubai."

He said political instability in some nations meant their territories could be used to grow drugs, and that smuggling gangs preyed on people from poor countries to act as "mules" and run the risk of getting caught with narcotics in their possession. Earlier this week Brig Abdul Jalil Mehdi, the head of the anti-narcotics unit at Dubai Police, was reported as saying that people caught at the airport with small amounts of drugs in their possession might not have to go to jail if they admitted their guilt and the drugs were for personal use.

Under UAE law at present, anyone found with even tiny amounts of a banned substance or who has traces of an illegal drug in their blood faces a minimum four-year prison sentence. The penalty for smuggling large amounts of narcotics is a minimum 10-year jail term.