x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gang trying to smuggle heroin into UAE arrested

A joint operation conducted by both Emirati and Pakistani authorities led to the arrest of all eight members of the Pakistani gang at two airports in their homeland and also at Dubai Airport.

An attempt by an eight-man gang to smuggle 16kg of heroin into the UAE from Pakistan has been foiled.

A joint operation conducted by Emirati and Pakistani authorities led to the arrest of all the members of the Pakistani gang at three airports - Islamabad and Peshawar airports in Pakistan and Dubai Airport.

The smuggler arrested in Dubai was found to have 1kg of heroin in capsules that he had swallowed. The other 15kg of the drug was discovered hidden in secret compartments in bags and shoes at Islamabad and Peshawar airports.

Lt Gen Said Abdullah Al Sahfar, undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, said that operation "Thank You Pakistan" had proved to be a very successful joint effort.

He praised the Pakistani authorities' cooperation with the anti-drug liaison office at the UAE Embassy in Islamabad.

They had provided detailed information that led to thwarting the smuggling attempts and the arrest of the smugglers.

The director general of the Federal Anti-Narcotics Directorate, Col Saeed Al Suwaidi, said that the operation was named "Thank You Pakistan" as a tribute to the valuable cooperation from Pakistani authorities, namely the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), the Special Investigations Commission and the Customs Intelligence Unit.

Col Al Suwaidi said the anti-narcotics liaison office at the UAE Embassy in Islamabad had received information from confirmed sources about a gang that was planning to smuggle a large quantity of heroin from Pakistan to the UAE via multiple UAE airports.

A joint operation was immediately activated with the Pakistani ANF, which offered substantial information about the plan, various flights details and the gang members themselves.

The eight men arrested planned to smuggle the heroin in five shipments.

Pakistani authorities arrested the first suspect at Islamabad airport as he was trying to smuggle 7kg of the drug. Three other suspects were arrested at Peshawar airport with 6kg. A fifth man was arrested at Dubai Airport with 104 heroin capsules in his stomach.

The final arrest led to the subsequent arrests of the three remaining members of the gang as they were attempting to smuggle 2kg of heroin via other airports.

The arrests were the latest in a series of police busts involving Pakistani nationals attempting to smuggle drugs into the UAE.

Earlier this year, authorities caught five Pakistani men and two Pakistani women in a sting after an eighth Pakistani national was caught trying to sell one kilogram of heroin.

Soon after, Pakistani nationals were involved in the biggest haul of opium in the UAE for a decade when 51kg of the drug worth Dh2.5 million was seized by police. It is believed they were attempting to smuggle the drug by boat into the UAE.

In April, police busted a Pakistani drug mule gang whose members were bringing heroin into the country in their stomachs after swallowing capsules.

Twenty one people carrying more than 18kg of heroin were arrested after an eight-month investigation.

Dubai Police later asked the Pakistani authorities to arrest two of its nationals who were thought to be the masterminds behind the network.

"They are taking advantage of poor people to make them smuggle these drugs inside their bodies for as little as US$300 (Dh1,100). Some poor people agree despite the deadly risk which might occur if the capsules explode inside the body," said Maj Gen Abdul Al Jaleel Al Mahdi, the head of the anti-drugs department at Dubai Police.

Capt Ibrahim Al Seba'a, the head of the international anti-drugs division at Dubai Police, said the men, who all arrived in the country on low-fare airlines, were on visit visas. They did not know anyone in the UAE and came from impoverished backgrounds.

talsubaihi@thenational.ae