x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Suspected opium smuggler arrested at Dubai airport

Police at Dubai International Airport arrest a man on suspicion that he tried to smuggle 1.2kg of opium into the country.

DUBAI // Police at Dubai International Airport arrested a man last week on suspicion that he tried to smuggle 1.2kg of opium into the country. Undercover agents in Terminal 2 became suspicious of the man, said Ali al Mugahwi, the director of passenger operations at Dubai Customs. The suspect's nationality was not disclosed. "He was acting strange; they could tell he was scared," Mr al Mugahwi said of the suspect, who was believed to be in his late 40s. "And when they checked his bag, they could smell the drugs inside it. You know, opium has a special smell."

Officers searched the man's luggage and found opium wrapped in small plastic bags hidden inside 88 separate pieces of fabric and clothing, Mr al Mugahwi said. The luggage also contained pungent food items that police believe were included to mask the smell of the drug. When he was interrogated at the airport, the man confessed to bringing the opium into the country, Mr al Mugahwi said. "He was crying and everything and said, 'OK, I will tell you the truth; I brought it here to use these.'

"But the amount is too much for him to use alone. So, of course, he brought it for somebody else inside the country." The arrest was the latest in a series of drug incidents at Dubai ports, including sea ports and border crossings. In May, police reported seizing 11.5kg of raw opium being smuggled in air freight at Dubai's Cargo Village; officials suspected that the contraband was in transit to Asia or Europe.

In July, the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, called on authorities in Dubai to clamp down on the transshipment of contraband through the emirate's largest port, Jebel Ali. While illegal drugs are shipped through various UAE ports - originating primarily in South Asia it is thought - officials in the Emirates have also acknowledged an increasing local demand for contraband.

hnaylor@thenational.ae