An Israeli man who was arrested in Dubai on suspicion of drug trafficking was involved in a scheme to smuggle half a ton of cocaine into the United Arab Emirates, Hebrew media reported on Sunday.
Halil Dasuki, 31, from Lod, was arrested last week in the UAE.
The reports came as Emirati police displayed 500 kilograms of cocaine — valued at $136 million — that were seized as part of an operation dubbed “Scorpion.” Dasuki is suspected of being involved in plans to smuggle the drugs into Dubai and then from there to Israel, Channel 12 news reported.
Israel Police cooperated with Dubai security officials in thwarting the shipment and tipped them off, according to the report, which alleged that Dasuki had Israeli accomplices, some of whom fled the UAE as soon as he was arrested. Local police are working to track down more of the suspects.
Israeli crime organizations are bringing drugs to Israel from South America via Dubai, and police forces in the two countries have been cooperating to thwart such efforts, Channel 12 reported.
Dasuki, who was arrested on Thursday, is “under pressure and afraid that they will execute him,” a friend of the suspect told the TV network. The source said that Dasuki has been moved to a more secure prison and an indictment on serious charges will be filed in the coming days.
— Dubai Policeشرطة دبي (@DubaiPoliceHQ) October 10, 2021
“Someone took advantage of Halil, because he doesn’t have the economic ability to fund a deal like that,” the source said, adding that Dasuki’s family is “in shock and think that someone set him up on purpose. They are really scared that they will execute him.”
Drug smugglers face possible death sentences in the UAE, but in practice, executions are rare. The family hired a local Dubai lawyer who was able to visit him in jail, the station said, and represented him in a remand hearing scheduled for Sunday.
Dasuki’s Israeli attorney, Uri Ben-Natan, will only be able to make contact with him in the coming days, via the local lawyer, according to the Walla news website.
Ben-Natan told Walla that, having represented Dasuki in the past in “not particularly serious cases,” he believes his client “is not able to be involved in drug trafficking of those tremendous proportions that are attributed to him by Dubai police.”
The United Arab Emirates, made up of seven emirates including Dubai, has a zero tolerance policy towards drug possession.
Officers “recently thwarted a smuggling attempt of 500 kilograms of pure cocaine into the country,” a Dubai police statement said. “The narcotics, worth more than 500 million dirhams ($136 million) in street value, were well-hidden within the structure of a cargo container.”
Police said they foiled the smuggling attempt after receiving a tip about a cargo container carrying the contraband through a sea port. There was no mention of cooperation with Israeli authorities. They noted that a suspect of “Middle Eastern origin” was arrested in the operation, and he was described as an intermediary for an international drug syndicate.
“Once the shipment arrived, the suspect transported the illegal drugs to another emirate and stored them in a warehouse with the aim of selling and promoting the harmful toxins,” said Eid Mohammed Thani Hareb, director of the Anti-Narcotics Department, according to the statement.
The statement added that security officers raided the warehouse and caught the man “red-handed.”
Police also published a video of the undercover operation to intercept the narcotics that was launched after they received the tip-off of the shipment.
The Foreign Ministry said Friday that it did not yet have any information on the case.
Dasuki is well known to law enforcement authorities in Israel and has a criminal past, the Kan public broadcaster reported on Friday. Last year, a police sting in Israel involving half a kilo of cocaine caught Dasuki and his brother. Though charges were filed against the brother and others, there was not enough evidence to indict Dasuki himself, according to the report.
Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalized ties last year when they signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords, along with Bahrain. The UAE has since become a popular tourist and business destination for Israelis and tens of thousands have visited the emirates. Visa-free travel between the nations went into effect on Sunday.