x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Drug traffickers targeting Syria through Dubai

Police say drug traffickers are targeting Syria to take advantage of the unrest sweeping the country.

DUBAI // Police believe drug traffickers are targeting Syria to take advantage of the unrest sweeping the country.

The claim comes as officers in Dubai made their fourth discovery since April of traffickers attempting to smuggle the drug through the emirate to the troubled country.

"We have definitely witnessed the development of a new trend among drug traffickers whereby they are targeting Syria to take advantage of the lack of security and instability the country is going through," said Major General Abdul Jalil Al Mahdi, the director of the anti-narcotics department at Dubai Police.

Syria has been in turmoil since protests for reforms in March 2011 escalated into an armed struggle between the government and the opposition.

"Drug traffickers always try to invent new routes to escape the grasp of law enforcement authorities... Syria is in a very suitable condition for them," added Maj Gen Al Mahdi.

He said drug traffickers were probably using Syria as a transit point on the way to countries such as Lebanon and Turkey.

Last Wednesday police caught two men trying to smuggle cocaine powder to the country.

The smugglers had spread the powder into the lining of the clothes they were carrying in their luggage. The "highly-complicated" technique used meant police were unable to extract the drug and say with certainty how much was being smuggled.

One of the two men was identified as GK, a 32-year-old Asian cook, who was travelling from Sao Paulo to Damascus, via Dubai. He was stopped and searched and the cocaine was found in his two suitcases. Officers said he confessed to carrying the drugs, saying he had been told to do so by an Arab man living in Brazil who offered him US$2,500. He said he was supposed to give the drugs to a person at Damascus Airport, who would then smuggle them into Lebanon.

A second man, aged 60, also travelling from Sao Paulo to Damascus via Dubai on the same day was also caught trying to smuggle the drug in the same way. Police said he had been paid $2,000 to deliver the drugs to another man who would smuggle them over the Syrian-Lebanese border.

Earlier this month another man was arrested in Dubai for attempting to smuggle cocaine into Syria through Dubai Airport using the same technique. Other arrests took place in June and April.

wissa@thenational.ae