x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hashish smuggler caught in sting given life sentence

Undercover officer buys hashish from 50-year-old trafficker in Musaffah car park after tip-off, then police move in for arrest.

ABU DHABI // When the middle-aged Lebanese man crossed the border from Oman into the UAE in late March, police in Al Ain already knew he was transporting hashish. But they did not arrest him. Instead, they laid a trap that would see him charged not just with possessing the drug but trafficking in it and, yesterday, sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors in Abu Dhabi Criminal Court said investigators followed the 50-year-old Al Ain resident, identified as KA, after receiving a tip that he had travelled to Sohar, Oman, on March 25 to purchase hashish. The man agreed to pay Dh30,000 (US$8,200) in two instalments for "three handfuls" of the drug and promised that he had a list of clients back in the UAE, before re-crossing the border. Just minutes after his return to the country, his phone rang, prosecutors said. A man who identified himself as "Abu Firas" claimed that he had obtained the trafficker's number from a mutual friend and said he was looking to buy Dh12,000 of hashish.

The two agreed to meet at a car park in the Musaffah area later that night. What KA did not know was that "Abu Firas" was an undercover police officer. The Criminal Court has requested that his identity remain hidden. In Musaffah, the trafficker spotted his buyer's vehicle and signalled for "Abu Firas" to come into his vehicle. According to his testimony in court, Abu Firas received "one handful" of hashish, which was later measured as 429.83 grams. The undercover officer paid Dh12,000, as agreed, and nearby police officers moved in for the arrest.

The trafficker and his car were searched and the police found 578 grams of hashish. Abu Dhabi Police were granted a search warrant for the trafficker's home in Al Ain, where they discovered additional drugs, although no details were specified. He pleaded guilty at the start of his trial last month. He is the second person in the emirate to receive a life sentence in 2010; the first was handed to a Palestinian woman who was caught selling Valium pills for Dh300,000.

A life sentence is set at 25 years. The trafficker has 15 days to appeal against the verdict. Prosecutors declined to comment on his case. @Email:myoussef@thenational.ae