The Airport Customs department has foiled 1,606 attempts to smuggle goods into Qatar and evade customs duty payment so far this year, a marked increase from 1,250 such cases recorded for the whole of last year, according to a statement issued by the General Authority of Customs (GAC).
Ajab Mansur al-Qahtani, director of the Customs department at Hamad International Airport (HIA) said customs officers have acquired a lot of experience in spotting smugglers and customs evaders, which enables them to handle the increasing number of travellers passing through HIA with “great efficiency”.
Explaining the functions of customs personnel at the airport, he said the Departures section has a GAC office where travellers have to declare and document valuable items such as jewellery and big sums of money.
In the Arrivals section, luggage is scanned and every bag is given a distinctive code (based on the tag) to detect its movement from the time it is removed from the aircraft until it is collected by the owner. While sophisticated equipment is used for this purpose, the hardest part of the job depends on the expertise and alertness of customs officers, which they accumulate through everyday work where they try to detect attempts to break the law and smuggle banned items.
If a passenger is found carrying dutiable goods but has not declared them, it will be considered as an attempt to evade payment of customs duties. Besides, he said any traveller coming into the country with goods other than personal possessions and gifts worth more than QR3,000 should declare the same at the Customs office to avoid any legal trouble.
Al-Qahtani stressed that the GAC maintained co-operation with the Drugs Enforcement Administration at the Ministry of Interior, which has helped foiled a considerable number of attempts to smuggle in contraband goods to the country. Similarly, co-operation with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has contributed in preventing the entry of banned medicines into the country.
A physician from the MoPH is posted round-the-clock to check whether medicines brought in by travellers are accompanied by a proper prescription. If it is not available, the drugs will be temporarily seized until the passenger gets an appropriate prescription from an approved hospital in the country.
"The Customs Department has a clear and straightforward strategy to limit the entry of banned drugs from entering Qatar, especially with the emergence of drugs of such as Captagon, Tramadol and Lyrica, which represent 50% of the haul. This is in addition to illicit drugs, most commonly hashish, marijuana, cocaine, and shabu/methamphetamine," he observed.
Al-Qahtani said the customs officers have the necessary skills to detect smuggling and duty evasion attempts.
The officer further said the single-window clearance system, Al Nadeeb, has helped facilitate the flow of goods into Qatar as transactions can be “accomplished in record time electronically”. "Generally each transaction does not take more than 15 minutes." Al Nadeeb has also made integration among various government departments possible.
The director also said his team was already equipped and ready to meet the demands of the Fifa Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Regarding Qatarisation efforts, al-Qahtani affirmed that Qatari Customs officers represent 100% of the workforce.
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