(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) With smugglers getting smarter with their criminal methods, the Dubai Police and Dubai Customs are always a few steps ahead of them, thanks to advanced and smart technology. This was discussed at a recent forum on smuggling, organised crimes and concealment methods.
The two forces have been employing hi-tech means to track and bust drug smugglers and crime rings entering the UAE. The banned substances have been detected no matter how they're hidden. Toys, diapers, the human body and even almonds are just some of the spots used for concealment, officers have said.
The police and the customs held the first-of-its-kind forum recently, to better detect certain offences in particular, such as drug smuggling and trafficking, counterfeit goods, ivory trade etc. The forces exchanged information and unified its efforts in order to keep the country a safe haven, immune from external threats.
It is expected to be held annually from now on.
Brigadier Abdullah Ali Al Ghaithi, Director of the General Department of Organisations Protective Security and Emergency (OPSE) of the Dubai Police, said they are looking at using Artificial Intelligence (AI) tech during inspections at airports, ports and road borders, to detect all types of smuggling methods and goods.
Container smuggling Ahmed Jumaa Al Jamri, director of the Jebel Ali Customs Center, spoke about how shipping containers are used for smuggling. The large volume of shipping trade handled by the UAE and its strategic location in the Gulf makes the Jebel Ali Port one of the top ports, not just in the Gulf region but the world.
Dubai Customs alone handles about 17 million containers annually, received 75 million visitors and completed 903 million transactions in 2017. By 2020, it's expected to deal with nearly 24 million containers, Al Jamri noted.
The official noted that 128 risk indicators are ascertained from the information on and the quality of goods that come in, besides the number of containers from each country and the companies that export them.
For inspection, Dubai Customs use five latest devices that can swipe 150 containers per hour accurately without any human intervention. It can reveal all kinds of banned items through a special mechanism. Last year, Al Jamri pointed out, they detected 140 kg of heroin hidden inside a shipment of children's teddy bears.
Drugs have also been discovered hidden inside container walls and floors, and shockingly, 6 million pills of Captagon were found concealed inside a cargo of meat products. Often, the smugglers also name their shipment falsely, to avoid paying customs duties. In one such case, a cargo of plastic items was found to be concealing cigarettes.
The Dubai Customs also uses mobile search techniques like sniffer dogs, mobile labs and remote controlled devices to detect smuggled items.
Airports on alert Marwan Mohammed Sunga, director of the General Department of Airport Security, said the General Department of Airport Security use the latest security programmes - including one called the 'Alarm Clock' - for inspection and quick detection of contents in luggage. He credited the Alarm Clock programme with a 24 per cent drop in seizures at the airport last year.
The airports are equipped with highly developed scanners to detect strange objects in people's bodies and the Dubai Civil Aviation training centre trained 4,000 employees last year in detection methods, Sunga said.
The official pointed out that drug smugglers often endangered their lives for very small amounts of money, and tried to conceal contraband in a variety of ways. "Inspectors have even caught people who insert drugs inside the wheels of their travel bags," Sunga said. The drugs are also covered up or added to other substances, to fool sniffer dogs. "For instance, they bring in sweets with marijuana in it or chocolate with heroin or cocaine."
Novel hiding methods Colonel Ayub Hassan Meftah, director of the local control department at the Anti-Narcotics department at the Dubai Police, focused on concealment and deflection methods. Among other things, he said the drug gangs often changed their travel routes, the country of origin or destination countries, to try and fool the authorities. Some also changed their destinations midway, while in transit.
In one case, 54 people of various nationalities were arrested from more than 16 countries, thanks to intelligence exchanged between the Dubai Police narcotics wing and those countries.
At the forum, Col Meftah said the Dubai Police have seen just about everything: from heroin hidden inside clothing embroidery, 76kg of cocaine inside computer screens to other drugs hidden in electricity generators and even diapers! One batch of drugs were found hidden inside almonds! The anti-narcotics officials found them stuffed with the substance and then stuck together again to look like whole nuts.
In one bizarre incident, drugs were concealed inside gas cylinders which exploded on a farm when the drugs were being extracted.
Major Ali Saeed Al Yamahi, of the criminal investigations department at the Dubai Police, spoke on the 'methods of hiding stolen items'. Stolen objects have been found in the strangest of hiding spots, such as abandoned cars, baths, deserted farms and other remote areas, he said.
"Some highlight cases involved a European who stole Dh1 million and hid it in a mountain area. He went to check it for four days, before we arrested him," Al Yamahi said. "In another, we caught a person who had swallowed small diamonds and pieces of gold."
The last part of the forum covered terrorism and explosive concealment, discussing the use of 3D radiation techniques in inspecting bags and luggages, to infrared detectors for explosive detection.