DUBAI: Once again, Dubai Customs officers stand tall as they block the entry of 3 million tramadol pills, with an approximate street value of AED 60 million. Inspectors at Dubai Cargo Village Customs Center were able to detect the restricted drug, packed in 60 parcels coming into Dubai from an Asian country by air.
“This is one of the biggest seizures of its kind made by Dubai Customs lately and the Risk Engine was ‘the star of the show’,” said Director of Dubai Customs Ahmed Mahboob Musabih. “The Risk Engine is a smart system which is primarily fed with up-to-date inputs from various resources, enabling it to identify suspected shipments at a high level of accuracy.”
He elaborated that the clearing company mentioned in the Customs declaration that the parcels contain medical products and lab equipment. However, it turned out, after analysis of available data on the history of the importer, that the shipment is likely to contain narcotic tramadol, a control medicine the company is officially not authorized to import.
“Cracking down on smugglers and safeguarding the community are major responsibilities on our shoulders. Two years ago, we launched a huge awareness campaign about the side effects of tramadol, jointly with Dubai Health Authority and DMI. The drive had a positive impact on the public, particularly youngsters, as they are the most targeted by drug dealers,” Mahboob added.
Abdullah Mohammed Al Khaja, Executive Director of Customer Management Division at Dubai Customs, noted, “Though tramadol is an effective opiate medication and can be used only if prescribed by a doctor, it has dangerous side effects on human health and sanity. Most countries worldwide, including the UAE, have restricted its use and enlisted it as a narcotic substance. A permit from the Ministry of Health is mandatory before importing it, according to the Cabinet Decree No 15 of 2011 amending the Tables Attached to Federal Law No 14 of 1995 (Article 2) on the Counter Measures against Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which added tramadol to the list.”
According to figures released by Dubai Customs, three attempts at smuggling tramadol pills were discouraged in 2014, Al Khaja revealed.
Shedding more light on the seizure, Talal Al Abdooli, Customs Intelligence Director, commented that Jebel Ali Customs officers had earlier managed to confiscate a shipment of tramadol imported under the same company. Based on its history, the company was targeted by the Risk Engine to track its shipments coming through all ports in the emirate. The system was alerted that a consignment was coming by air in the company’s name. Intelligence officers closely monitored the consignment until it arrived at the Cargo Village Customs Center.
“The risk assessment system was subsequently notified that the company in question will receive another suspected consignment by air cargo from an Asian country, which we are currently tracking down,” said Al Abdoli.
In an attempt to go unnoticed, the importing company paid in full the storage fees for the consignment. However, they didn’t issue a Customs declaration or complete consignment receipt formalities. “Tracking the shipments’ route from the starting point and having reviewed the importer’s records with Customs, we reached a conviction that the company might be involved in some illicit smuggling of prohibited goods,” he concluded.
Hamid Mohammed Rasheed, Director of Air Customs Centres Management, said that the parcels didn’t contain any medical products or equipment as stated in the Customs declaration.