August 12, 2008 / 6:47 PM / 11 years ago

UAE police seize heroin, arrest 19 Afghans

DUBAI (Reuters) - Police in the United Arab Emirates have seized 202 kg (445 lb) of heroin and arrested 19 Afghan suspects, the official news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.

WAM said the “high-purity heroin”, worth an estimated $10.9 million, was seized in the emirate of Sharjah, where the suspects had a license to import fruits and food as a cover. The narcotics were smuggled in the fuel tanks of trucks imported into the Gulf Arab state.

Afghanistan produced about 93 percent of the world’s opium in 2007, most of which is processed to make highly addictive heroin and exported. Corruption in the central Asian country is hobbling efforts to combat the booming trade, according to the United Nations.

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates including trade and tourism hub Dubai. The oil-exporting nation of about 4.5 million people enjoys one of the world’s highest per capita incomes thanks to a six-fold rise in oil prices since 2002.

Drug smugglers face jail for life or capital punishment in Gulf Arab countries. In Saudi Arabia, offenders are beheaded.

Reporting by Inal Ersan, editing by Mark Trevelyan

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