x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Major heroin haul was headed for the streets

Most drugs pass through Dubai en route to other destinations, but official says this shipment was going to stay in the Emirates.

DUBAI // Police have seized 42kg of heroin with an estimated street value of Dh20 million (US$5.45m) intended to be sold locally. Police made three arrests across Dubai and Sharjah following an investigation into the lead suspect, said Brig Abdul Jaleel Mahdi, the head of Dubai's anti-narcotics department.

Two of the suspects are said to be Pakistani and one Indian. Originating in Afghanistan, the heroin was believed to have been shipped by the gang from Pakistan into the eastern region. Brig Mahdi said his department had received a tip-off regarding one of the Pakistani suspects and set up a task force to investigate. The investigation led the police to other members of the trafficking group. The arrests were made on the morning of May 28, when police officers raided three locations where they believed the suspects had hidden the drugs.

The first suspect was arrested in his home in Satwa where police found 2.8kg of heroin hidden inside green capsules. The second suspect was arrested in a hotel in Naif while looking for buyers, and the third, who had used a warehouse in Sharjah Industrial 6 district to store the heroin - which was hidden inside wooden planks used for furniture - was arrested in the Al Rashidiya area where he had lived.

The three, who are in custody, have now been referred to the Public Prosecution. The Pakistani suspects are charged with possession of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances with the intention of selling, while the Indian suspect is charged with possessing drugs. "Most of the time drugs are meant to be trafficked abroad and are passing through Dubai. This is a one-off incident," a Dubai Police spokesman said.

The force has been active recently in the fight against drugs. Acting on a tip-off on March 16, police foiled an attempt to smuggle 23kg of the drug Captagon into Saudi Arabia when they found 158,000 tablets of the illegal stimulant hidden in a car's petrol tank. On Feb 15, Dubai authorities intercepted 33kg of heroin en route from an undisclosed Asian country to South Africa at Dubai International Airport.

The efforts led police to another package containing 19kg of heroin, which was also on its way to South Africa. They then contacted authorities in Johannesburg, who arrested a South African man waiting for the package. The department arrested more than 1,300 people last year on drug charges, confiscating more than 3,000kg of a range of substances including heroin and hashish. Some 440 non-nationals were sent home after serving their sentences.

Last month Brig Mahdi said the UAE faced a growing risk of being targeted by drug smugglers, given the amount of foreign interest attracted by the area's rapid growth and development. shafez@thenational.ae