Dubai 'being used as hub for drug traffic' say police

Crime syndicates are taking advantage of the city's numerous points of entry and departure to throw investigators off the trail, director of anti-narcotics department says.

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DUBAI // The emirate has become a global hub for drug trafficking because of its numerous points of entry and departure, according to the director of Dubai Police's anti-narcotics department. Smugglers are using Dubai's infrastructure to throw enforcement agents off their trail by establishing "false points of departure", said Maj Gen Abdul Jalil Mahdi.

"Traffickers use the modern and accessible facilities in the emirate, such as the airports and ports, trying to move narcotics from their home countries to their destinations," he said. Recent arrests showed traffickers moving cocaine from South America to Europe and Africa through Dubai. "They come and spend a day or two here before purchasing a ticket to their intended destination in order to fool the agents there," he said.

Maj Gen Mahdi said law enforcement officials and traffickers were engaged in a hard-fought battle of bluff and counter-bluff. "They are developing new techniques every day and we are intensifying our efforts and raising public awareness against such offences," he said. Crime syndicates were even using new techniques to recruit "mules" for trafficking operations, he said, citing a recent operation in which smugglers in Asian nations tried brainwashing techniques to recruit drug carriers.

"A Pakistani man who was arrested trying to smuggle narcotics into a European country stated that he was recruited in a mosque in Pakistan," Maj Gen Mahdi said. "The suspect stated that he was instructed to carry the drugs into the heart of Western societies to destroy them from within by spreading dangerous narcotics among its youth." Almost 500 people were arrested and charged by Dubai Police between January and May this year, he said.

Of these, 153 were users, 121 were mules, 121 were personal users caught with a small quantity of drugs, 70 were street-level peddlers, 21 dealers and four were traffickers. The suspects were caught with a total of 78kg of narcotics and more than 13,000 pills. Dubai Police said they had recorded a 39 per cent increase in narcotics arrests in 2009 compared with the previous year, and a 20 per cent increase in case prosecutions.

In 2009, the emirate reported 1,021 arrests in 653 drug cases involving 233kg of seized narcotics, while in the previous year, it reported 734 arrests in 542 drug cases, with 158kg of narcotics seized. Dubai Customs registered a 34 per cent increase in successful operations compared with last year. More than 250 smuggling attempts were stopped between January and May this year, against 188 attempts last year.

Although the Dubai public prosecution recorded a 95 per cent conviction rate in drug cases last year, anti-narcotics officials have stressed the need for increased public awareness and co-operation. The Deputy Chief of Police, Maj Gen Khamis Mattar al Mezeina, said that, applied throughout the GCC, those factors would help to curb drug offences in the region. "We have great co-operation with other anti-narcotics departments across the Arab world and especially in the GCC," he said.

"We are also having a year-round awareness drive to educate the public about the dangers of narcotics abuse. The chief of Bur Dubai police station, Lt Col Ali Ghanem, said: "Public co-operation forms a major part of our work. "We have various channels of communication through which the public can reach us with to enact crime prevention."