x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Customs inspectors catch 'mules' with Dh11,000 of heroin

Two people have been arrested in separate incidents at Dubai International Airport after being caught with heroin hidden inside their bodies.

Dubai // Two people have been arrested in separate incidents at Dubai International Airport after being caught with heroin hidden inside their bodies. In the first case, Customs inspectors at Terminal Two noticed an Asian man who seemed reluctant to pick up his luggage. He was stopped and although a search of his bags revealed nothing out of the ordinary, an X-ray of his stomach showed 50 capsules of what turned out to be heroin.

The second suspect was also caught at Terminal Two, after his nervous body language alerted inspectors, Customs said. He had swallowed 30 capsules of heroin. In total, the two seizures amounted to about 500g of the drug, worth US$3,000 to US$4,500 (Dh11,000 to Dh16,500), according to figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Customs officials would not say where the men had flown from, but among other destinations, Terminal Two handles charter and scheduled flights to and from Afghanistan, where most of the world's heroin originates.

The arrests came in the past two weeks. Ali al Mugahwi, the director of passenger operations at Dubai Customs, said increasing numbers of people, known as "mules", were being caught smuggling drugs in their stomachs, but he did not have details on the number of cases passed on to Dubai Police. "It is more common than it used to be. These people are not carrying drugs for themselves - they are paid to carry it for someone else."

He said that some mules were caught transferring directly between flights, while others were paid to bring the drugs to people in Dubai, where they would be stored and shipped out of the country at a later date. "We work very closely with the police on these cases," he added. Earlier this year, a report by the UN's International Narcotics Control Board said the UAE had become "a major exporting and trans-shipping area" for drugs such as heroin and amphetamines, which are manufactured in Asia and sold on the streets of Europe and the US.

Mr al Mugahwi said his staff were using a combination of technology and psychology to intercept drug shipments. "Our inspectors are very well trained in how to spot these criminals and they are committed to catching them. "We do not sleep, we are always ready, and we will catch anyone trying to do this," he warned. "We will not allow drugs to come through - it is very important for the security of the country that we stop this trade."

gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae