DUBAI // Police have seized 23 kilograms of heroin in what they called their largest sting operation of the year.
The drugs were thought to be worth between Dh13.8million and Dh16.1m and were seized when police raided the headquarters of a drug trafficking gang they said had been operating in the country for the past five years.
A Pakistani woman, who police believe to be the gang leader, and two of her sons were among five people arrested in connection with the case.
"The operation is the biggest this year and it is a strong blow for drug traffickers across the world as the work of this gang was not only confined to the UAE," said Major General Abdul al Jalil al Mahdi, the head of the Anti-Narcotics Department at Dubai Police.
"This is a gang with a global operation: they have several bases in several countries, including in Europe. They still have members in the other countries and, so far, we have identified two more suspects abroad and are working closely with several countries and international bodies to catch the other suspects," Maj Gen al Mahdi said.
Police said the heroin was smuggled in from an Asian country. It was found hidden in tennis balls, plastic bags and newspaper. Police also found the drug in capsules, presumably being prepared for ingestion so it could be taken abroad. Officers also seized large sums in the operation, they said.
"Different currencies including dollars, euros and currencies from Africa and Asia were seized during the raid - something that reflects the huge scope of the gang's work," Maj Gen al Mahdi said.
The police raided the Al Baraha drug den after receiving information about the five-member gang. The house doubled as the home of four of the suspects, they said. Two suspects were arrested in the raid, including the woman believed to be the leader. Police waited for two more suspects, who arrived home at about 2am. The fifth suspect was arrested during a raid at a nearby hotel, where he was living.
Police say the female suspect, SN, confessed that the gang had been involved in smuggling drugs in and out of Dubai as well as selling the drug in the city.
According to police records, a second suspect, NS, confessed to having been in the business for 10 years.
The operation, which took place last week, is the latest in a series of successful stings carried out by Dubai Police this year.
The quantity of drugs seized in the first nine months of this year has tripled in volume compared with the same period last year. More than 920 kilograms of drugs have been seized in the first three-quarters of 2010 - including hashish, cocaine, crystal meth and heroin. That was compared with 364 kilograms seized in the same period last year, according to police statistics.
More than 800 drug cases were investigated by police this year, and more than 1,150 suspects were referred to public prosecution.
"This is due to the increase in our scope of work, as well as increased international cooperation," Maj Gen al Mahdi said.
In a separate incident last week, Dubai Police said they had helped Malaysian authorities to arrest a gang of seven and seize 14 kilograms of crystal meth.