x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UN: UAE is a transit point for drugs

Dubai's busy ports offer gangs alternative supply routes with less stringent customs checks, according to officials.

NEW YORK // Criminals are increasingly using the UAE as a market and a trafficking point for illegal narcotics, according to a UN report released yesterday. The World Drug Report 2009, compiled by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, says smuggling of amphetamines and heroin through the Emirates has continued to grow.

The findings mirror figures released by the anti-narcotics unit of Dubai Police, which has seized 41 per cent more drugs between January and May this year than in the same period last year. The UNODC director, Antonio Maria Costa, said Dubai's busy ports offered gangs alternative supply routes with less stringent customs checks. "Drug trafficking today has become a global business," Mr Costa said. "Even if the main markets are still North America and Europe, criminals can go through other areas where there is the least risk of being arrested with the least controls.

"The logic today is not to send drugs from Colombia to Spain - it is too dangerous. Everybody would be waiting for containers to arrive and inspect them thoroughly. Instead, it is sent through other ports and disguised with Chinese tea or cashew nuts from Ivory Coast." A report issued by the UN's International Narcotics Control Board last year, which made similar conclusions to the UNODC report, was recently criticised by a senior Dubai Customs official for being conducted with "minimal communication" with local authorities.

The Vienna-based agency's 314-page report says Dubai is emerging as a new transit point for opiates passing from Afghanistan, through Pakistan and onwards to destinations such as China and Malaysia. Researchers also highlight "dramatic increases" in seizures of fake Captagon pills, commonly an addictive mixture of stimulants such as fenethylline and caffeine that can induce paranoia. Growing drug use in the UAE and other Gulf countries stemmed from the increasingly affluent middle class combined with an influx of illegal immigrants looking to make cash through crime, Mr Costa said.

Customs officials said yesterday that they had arrested the second person this month apparently trying to smuggle heroin into Dubai in capsules in their gut. jreinl@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Hugh Naylor