x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Sharjah prosecutors seek death penalty

Death sentences will be sought for 15 members of a gang who were accused of trafficking heroin.

SHARJAH// Death sentences will be sought for 15 members of a gang who were arrested in August for allegedly smuggling 202kg of heroin worth Dh40.2 million (US$11m) into the country, the Sharjah Public Prosecution said yesterday. Ismael Abu Ezza, the authority's director, said his office would push for the harshest punishment because of the severity of the case.

"We have finalised our investigations and all that we were to do, and in our report submitted to the Sharjah Criminal Court we have recommended a death sentence," he said. "In all circumstances it is a big case, one that is internationally condemned and has been monitored by the international press. It is only credible that we recommend a punishment that would be credible to our country and the international community."

He said the first hearing in the case would begin in the Sharjah courts next week, when the accused would present their defence. Police arrested 19 people in raids on Aug 7 and Aug 8 after receiving a tip that a gang was dealing in heroin on a massive scale. Four of those arrested were released. In a joint operation by the Sharjah and Dubai police, separate raids were made in the emirate. The drugs were said to have been smuggled into the UAE in the fuel tanks of lorries imported privately into the country.

Police believe the heroin was stored in the UAE before being sold and moved to other countries. Two of the suspects, identified as MA and DH, were stopped by police, who said US$163,800 was found in their vehicle. Officers said they found a large number of bags said to contain heroin in MA's flat, in the Nabaa area of Sharjah. A search of DH's flat uncovered a large quantity of packaging and processing tools, plastic bags and weighing machines used in the drugs trade.

Both men, identified as a possible leaders of the gang, were said to have confessed and provided details of their operation, including the names of dealers. One is also alleged to have admitted to police that he had already sold 25kg of the drugs The men led police to two of the lorries in an industrial area, where two other men, identified as E and A, were observed preparing the vehicles for shipments. Those men were also arrested.

A rented warehouse was supposed to be used for foodstuffs, but police said there was nothing resembling food in it, only big fuel tanks. Three lorries were seized at second warehouse, and tests revealed traces of heroin in each, officials said. The suspects allegedly said they had used seven lorries in their trade. Fuel was smeared on the lorry tanks to make detection of the contraband more difficult.

Col Abdullah Mubarak al Dukhan, the deputy director of Sharjah Police, said at the time: "This is the largest quantity of heroin seized in all the Arab world at once." ykakande@thenational.ae