x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

'Bootlegging' brothers charged in police attack

Syrian pair accused of smashing bottle over sergeant's head as they were being arrested for trying to smuggle more than Dh100,000 worth of alcohol from Dubai to Saudi Arabia.

DUBAI // Two brothers smashed a bottle over the head of a policeman as they were being arrested for trying to smuggle more than Dh100,000 worth of alcohol from Dubai to Saudi Arabia, a court heard yesterday. WS, 27, and WS, 29, from Syria, were charged with the illegal possession of alcoholic drinks with intent to distribute.

The men, who pleaded not guilty, also were charged with assaulting a public official on duty. Prosecutors said the two attacked the officers who attempted to arrest them during a sting operation. One of the arresting officers was hit over the head with a glass bottle and left with permanent scarring. According to public prosecution records, the brothers, who ran a trucking business, offered a man Dh50,000 to take a truck carrying 7,560 bottles of alcohol from Dubai to Saudi Arabia. The drink was due to be smuggled on May 15.

The man alerted police, claiming the brothers had offered him a driving job for Dh3,000 per trip and asked if he were interested in participating in a smuggling operation. CID officers from Rashidiya Police Station set up a sting operation and told the informant to drive the lorry full of alcohol to a meeting with the defendants in the Nad Al Hamar district near Ras Al Khor. When the brothers arrived, records show, police officers emerged and showed their badges. "They attempted to escape when we presented ourselves," said one of the arresting officers. "We saw them attack the sergeant with a glass bottle, breaking it on his head."

Proceedings will continue on August 24. In a separate alcohol-related case, a Mali man facing charges of illegally possessing more than 1,500 bottles of alcohol claims he was merely at a friend's flat to watch the World Cup. The defendant, OM, 40, was charged, along with two Ugandan men and a Nigerian, with illegal possession of alcohol with intent to distribute. OM told the court that when police raided the flat, which doubled as an alcohol store, he was there to watch a football match.

The men, who appeared before the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours, pleaded not guilty to possessing 1,497 beers and 113 bottles of spirits. The men also were charged with illegally residing in the country. The arrests came after police raided the flat in the Al Baraha district of Deira on June 13. An officer told prosecutors he became suspicious of a Ugandan man carrying a large plastic bag near his patrol car.

"He looked anxious and nervous when he saw me, so I stopped him and asked what was inside the bag," said the officer. "When he opened it, I found bottles of alcohol," he told prosecutors. "I found more bottles inside his car. When I questioned him, he told me he and the other defendants were trading in alcohol and had a store in their flat." The officer called for assistance and raided the flat, where they found the other three defendants watching the football.

In his defence, OM told prosecutors he had a deal with the African woman who owned the flat. "I pay the owner of the flat for my meals. On that day I had gone there to watch a Ghana match against Serbia when police arrived," prosecutors said he told them. He told the court the African woman left the flat before the police raid and said, while he knew the others were trading in alcohol, he had no participation.

The court will issue its verdict next week. @Email:amustafa@thenational.ae