DUBAI: Opium intertwined with fine thread, inside shirt buttons and in the sole of a shoe, methamphetamine mixed with coffee powder, captagon concealed inside food containers – there’s nothing that can escape the eye of Dubai Customs officials as a series of seizures in recent days have demonstrated.
Armed with sharp skills and exceptional expertise, these vigilant gatekeepers are constantly making an effort to stay ahead of the game.
Mohammed Al Ghaffari, Executive Director, Human Resources, Finance and Administration Division at Dubai Customs, said the Customs Training Centre which provides specialised and professional training to inspectors had conducted 100 security courses as of July 2023, as smugglers find innovative ways to bring in illegal shipments.
He said a practical simulation system to train inspectors helps them identify smuggling and concealment techniques using advanced X-ray detection devices at all customs ports in the emirate.
The inspectors also learn about the latest techniques in areas like criminology, risk management, border control, narcotics and smuggling methods. They conduct field training scenarios based on analysed data to stay ahead of modern smuggling techniques to curb illegal activities at sea, air and land ports across the emirate.
Take the instance of a passenger arriving at Dubai Airport from an African country. Alert inspectors who found him suspicious, stopped him for questioning but he denied carrying any prohibited substances. Upon inspecting the passenger’s luggage, however, customs officers found 2,256gm of cocaine tucked away at the bottom of the bag and within the passenger’s shoes.
Another passenger, also arriving from an African country, attracted attention because of her body language and unusual behaviour. Upon inspecting her luggage, customs officers uncovered 4,500gm of cocaine ingeniously concealed within the buttons of her clothing, making detection difficult, But the inspectors got the better of her.
Recently, Customs inspectors intercepted an Asian traveller’s attempt to smuggle 7.06kg of marijuana through Dubai International Airport. The drugs were cleverly hidden inside bags of a well-known breakfast cereal brand.
Ibrahim Al Kamali, Director of Passenger Operations Department, said Dubai Customs’ strategic blueprint is fully aligned with the goal of making Dubai the world’s safest city. He said the the strategy for 2021 to 2026 aims at fortifying borders and fostering stakeholder contentment.
He said Dubai airports welcome a diverse influx of passengers from various cultures and nations. “This dynamic flow bolsters the nation’s economy and its continuity.
"The role of customs inspectors, in this context, encompasses securing entry points while facilitating legitimate trade and travel— a harmonious balance of security and facilitation that remains integral.”
The officials said the Customs Training Centre equips inspectors with knowledge and expertise aligned with real-world customs operations. Accomplished trainers bring their extensive experience to deliver practical insights. The centre also adopts cutting-edge training systems, notably the “Symfox” analytical tool, simulating smuggling and concealment techniques through X-ray scanning devices at all customs checkpoints.
Inspectors further enhance their skills through specialised courses in advanced body language, bolstered by real-world scenarios derived from previous seizures. These efforts have helped increase the efficiency of customs inspectors over the years.