Expats dressed as Omanis held in illegal tobacco unit raid
April 27, 2019 | 8:30 PM
by Times News Service
Image used for illustrative purposes only.

Muscat: One of Dhofar’s biggest illegal chewing tobacco manufacturing unit was busted by the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP).

The operation uncovered the involvement of expats disguised as Omanis who were engaged in illegal activities, a hidden farm in Salalah, and a very large amount of raw material being used to produce illegal chewing tobacco.

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

According to a PACP statement, “The authority received information regarding expats distributing chewing tobacco to stores in Salalah and neighbouring 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,” PACP’s statement added. “Two weeks of monitoring revealed that the home in the farm was used to produce this tobacco on specific days in the week. The first accused would cooperate with another person to use a four-wheeler to load the consignment and distribute it to stores. Furthermore, the main accused in the crime would disguise himself as a citizen 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 operation was undertaken in cooperation between the Royal Oman Police (ROP) and the consumer protection authority.

“A joint team formed by the PACP and the ROP raided the location at night when the primary suspect and his accomplice came to take the tobacco for distribution. They were caught red-handed in the process of transporting bags of 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.

“After questioning, the case was transferred to the Public Prosecution, which filed it in Salalah court, which ruled to convict the two suspects for their misdemeanour of selling illegal products and sentenced them to two years in prison, an OMR2,000 fine each, and expulsion from Oman.”

Al Basrwai added, “The authority will not be lenient in taking 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 negative practices that can harm consumers.

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