​Joint raid unearths one of Dhofar's largest illegal tobacco operations
April 25, 2019 | 12:07 PM
by Times News Service
Shutterstock. Photo for illustration purpose only

Muscat: One of Dhofar’s biggest illegal chewing tobacco operations was broken up by the Public Authority for Consumer Protection in a recent raid.

The operation involved expats who tried to pass off as Omani citizens in order to carry out the illegal activities. The operation was primarily based at a hidden farm in Salalah from where very large amounts of materials used to produce illegal chewing tobacco were recovered in the raid.

According to Ali bin Salem al Basrawi, Director of the PACP in Dhofar, “Manufacturing chewing tobacco, supplying it, and selling it in stores is against the law of consumer protection. These expat workers are considered one of the biggest producers of this kind of tobacco in Dhofar.”

According to a statement by the Public Authority for Consumer Protection, “The authority received information regarding expatriate workers distributing chewing tobacco to stores in Salalah and neighboring Wilayats, and that the distributors were selling the wares in secret.

“Officials from the authority monitored one of the accused as he drove the vehicle used in their activities and discovered that the accused received the tobacco from a nearby farm in Salalah during the night,” the statement added.

“Two weeks of monitoring revealed that a home in the farm was used to produce this tobacco during the day on specific days of the week. The first accused would cooperate with another person and use a four-wheeled vehicle to load the narcotics and distribute it to stores. Furthermore, the main accused in the crime would disguise himself as a citizen in order to avoid suspicion."

“After gathering proof and confirming the place and what occurred within, a search warrant was obtained for the house inside the farm, as well as the vehicle," the statement said.

The arrest itself was a work of cooperation between the Royal Oman Police (ROP) and the authority. “A joint team formed by the PACP and the ROP raided the location at night after the primary suspect and his accomplice entered to remove the tobacco for distribution. They were caught red-handed, while in the middle of transporting bags of the tobacco and some of the other workers were able to flee."

“Very large amounts of the materials used to make the tobacco were discovered, as well as amounts of the product, ready for consumption, in large black bags scattered on the ground and in crates, some of which bore unintelligible symbols and names that are used in production," the PACP statement said.

“After questioning, the case was transferred to Public Prosecution, which filed it at the court in Salalah, which ruled to convict the two suspects for the misdemeanor of selling illegal products and sentenced them to two years in prison, a fine of OMR 2000 each, and expulsion from Oman.”

Al Basrawi added, “The authority will not be lenient in taking the help of all legal procedures to end these forbidden practices in order to protect the safety and health of consumers.”

Al Basrawi also called on everyone to cooperate if they witness these practices by reporting them.

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