DOHA: Most prohibited goods people try to push into Qatar come through air and not land, say senior customs officials.
And among the most seized goods are banned items like drugs and counterfeit goods, gold and gold jewellery on which importers must pay duty.
Sometimes air passengers bring along narcotic pills and banned drugs as innocent carriers, said a customs official.
Khalid Hamad Rashid Al Kaabi said once an Arab woman coming here was carrying large quantities of a banned pill.
On inquiry, it emerged that someone had asked her to carry the pills and she obliged them.
“We came to know that someone who was supposed to take delivery of the pills was waiting outside the airport.
“We launched a dragnet and caught the man and left the woman,” said Al Kaabi, Acting Director of Airport Customs.
Al Kaabi, along with Ajab Mansoor Al Qahtani, Customs Director at the passenger terminal at Hamad International Airport, and Mohamed Al Kubaisi, Head of Import Section at Abu Samra customs check-post, were speaking at a Ramadan symposium held by Al Sharq newspaper late last week.
To questions, Al Qahtani said people hardly tried to push through prohibited goods through the land customs checkpost. “If at all, we come across minor crimes at the checkpost.”
Tourist arrivals into the country by road have been increasing as some 2,000 cars enter through Abu Samra checkpost almost daily on average.
“This adds up to some 60,000 cars a month,” added Al Qahtani.
More lanes and windows have been added to the customs clearance system at Abu Samra and this has reduced the time it takes to clear a vehicle.
However, there are 400 vehicles lined up for clearance at a time so it takes quite some time to wave off a vehicle.
As for airport customs, delays caused in releasing imported cargoes of food items when Hamad International Airport became fully operational late last May, were due to a severe lack of coordination. The Peninsula
These were initial hiccups and they have been completely removed.
“There are no delays anymore,” said Al Kaabi.
A centre to train customs officials is almost ready and expected to be operational soon, Al Kaabi added.
He said customs officials are trained in evaluating body language of passengers and catch people on suspicion.
And most of the time the hunch of a customs official is correct.
The official said a single-window clearance system launched by his department had made things easier for importers.