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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Drugs in nappies, almonds and animal guts: Dubai Customs tell of strangest busts

Dubai Customs and Dubai Police are working together to adapt their inspection methods to ensure no contraband is smuggled into the country

Dubai Customs bust someone for trying to smuggle pills into the country under the guise of shipping carpets. Courtesy Dubai Customs
Dubai Customs bust someone for trying to smuggle pills into the country under the guise of shipping carpets. Courtesy Dubai Customs

Almonds, animal guts and baby nappies are but a few of the unlikely items criminals have hidden contraband in during their attempts to smuggle illegal substances into the country.

But no place is too unlikely for Dubai Customs Officers who – after foiling 1,628 smuggling attempts last year alone – have surely seen it all before.

In one of these cases, officers seized 141kg of cocaine hidden in a shipment children’s toys. In another, officers found 12kg of cocaine concealed in the walls and floors of a shipping container. In fact, customs officers have found drugs in a variety of places, including barrels of animal offal, in the lining of clothes, electricity generators, computer screens, diapers and even hollowed out almonds.

“In a major case, police arrested 54 suspects from 16 different countries for attempting to smuggle 76kg of cocaine hidden inside computer screens,” said Col Ayoub Muftah, local drug control section head at Dubai Police’s anti-narcotics department.

He was speaking at a recent forum organised by Dubai Police and Dubai Customs titled ‘Combating Criminal Networks’ Methods of Smuggling and Concealing’.

“In another case, drugs were concealed inside gas cylinders and when the criminals tried to get the drugs out, a cylinder exploded” he said.

Drugs concealed in bananas. Dubai Police helped thwart an attempt to smuggle 2 tonnes of different types of drugs in eight European countries in November last year. Courtesy Dubai Police
Drugs concealed in bananas. Dubai Police helped thwart an attempt to smuggle 2 tonnes of different types of drugs in eight European countries in November last year. Courtesy Dubai Police

As criminals get ever more creative with their methods and means for smuggling, authorities in Dubai continue to adapt to stay ahead of the curve.

Brig Ali Al Ghaithi, director of the General Department of Organisations Protective Security and Emergency (OPSE), said police are planning to integrate artificial intelligence in their inspections to detect all kinds of contraband, including counterfeit goods, ivory and all forms of drugs.

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Dubai Customs handles about 17 million containers a year, 75 million visitors and 35 free zones, Ahmed Al Jamri, manager at Jebel Ali Customs, told the forum.

He said that to handle the sheer volume of trade at the ports, Dubai Customs has installed five scanning devices that can process up to 150 containers per hour.

These systems coupled with sniffer dogs and mobile laboratories make up the barriers protecting the public from illegal substances, Mr Al Jamri said.

But should contraband manage to make its way into the country, Dubai Police are then tasked with finding the criminals who smuggled it in.

Maj Ali Al Yamahi, from Dubai’s criminal investigations department, said that when it came to theft, several studies conducted by Dubai police revealed that thieves mostly hide the stolen items in cars, abandoned toilets and desert areas.

He told of a case a man who stole jewellery valued at Dh1m being arrested after police spotted him visiting a remote area in the desert where they then found the stolen items.

“In another case, the thief swallowed diamonds and gold jewellery in attempts to hide them but he was arrested.”