Heat piles on food smugglers

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Arrests made as tons of subsidized items seized

Some of the subsidized food items set for smuggling abroad

KUWAIT CITY, Aug 14: The concerned authorities in the country are continuing their war against gangs that deplete subsidized food commodities, within the framework of daily follow-up to monitor the movement of goods leaving the country, irrespective of whether it is related to individuals or companies, and in light of seeking to take more stringent punitive measures against smugglers and those who help them or facilitate smuggling operations, reports Al-Qabas daily. Every month, the General Administration of Customs confiscates several tons of food supplies and returns them to the Supply Department of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

They are seized from containers that are exported abroad as personal belongings or transported through cars, trucks, and others. After the high frequency of smuggling attempts, and the spread of video clips on social media showing the sale of products, which are subsidized and provided by the state to its citizens and some groups abroad either in Iraq, Egypt or Jordan, the General Administration of Criminal Investigations, under the direct supervision and instructions of the Minister of Interior Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled, intensified steps to apprehend those who smuggle food supplies, from within the 92 sales centers in the country’s various branches.

Through the security personnel who were distributed in all governorates to monitor the work of supply selling points, the administration last week was able to seize three expatriates, and completed the investigation with another group that facilitates the process of smuggling supplies and storing them in other locations, in preparation for selling or exporting them abroad.

It was discovered that the two groups were able to smuggle and prepare supply materials such as rice, flour, oil and milk for export in quantities exceeding ten tons. They devised different ways to smuggle them abroad such as by wrapping them in other product packages to delude the concerned authorities in the country. The last seizure of smuggled supplies was on August 10 when the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of an expatriate in possession of five tons of state-subsidized supplies, which he stole and tried to smuggle out of the country.

In a press statement, the ministry stated that the Criminal Investigation Department’s Capital Investigation Department arrested the expatriate who had been selling these items in the markets after repacking them in bags bearing different brand names.

The suspect was referred to the concerned authorities along with the seized items. He is being investigated to find his accomplices and others who facilitated the theft. The ministry expressed appreciation to the Criminal Security Sector for their sincere efforts in confronting all types of crime, apprehending violators and outlaws, and striking with an iron fist anyone who tampers with the security and safety of citizens. According to a security source, there is an intensification of efforts to monitor workers in the supply branches and investigate the methods of removing and smuggling supply materials from them. All the accused in these cases are apprehended, and investigations with the arrested persons will be carried out to uncover information related to the case.

A customs source said all food items inside personal shipments are being verified, even if they are packed in different packages, adding that if they are confirmed to be food supplies and in commercial quantities, they will be confiscated. A report issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry revealed that 61,000 ration cards were canceled during the months of April and May, in addition to the cancellation of 5,891 other cards. The report explained that the volume of individuals benefiting from the cumulative ration as of the end of May reached 2.3 million people with 257,900 cards. The value of subsidized materials spent on basic materials during the aforementioned two months amounted to KD 26.8 million, with an increase of eight percent, while milk and nutrients witnessed a decrease of 44 percent. Meanwhile, the Union of Workers in the Cooperative Sector called for the employment of Kuwaitis in branches as observers and supervisors in order to eliminate part of the problem of supply smuggling.

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