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06 December 2023

Bootleggers active again in UAE labour camps


By VM Sathish

Liquor-related gang wars in the labour camp areas of Sajaa, Sonapur and other pockets of labour camps have resumed as Sharjah Police have recently arrested six Indians hailing from Punjab in connection with the murder of another Indian bootlegger from Uttar Pradesh following a dispute about selling liquor in the Saja area.

The gang wars in Sajaa had been subdued following the high-profile murder of a Pakistani national in one of the gang wars two years ago that attracted international media attention and a political overreaction in India. The 17 Indians involved in the gang war were sentenced for life, leading to the diplomatic intervention of the Indian Government and a fund raising campaign by the Indian Consulate and Indian businessmen in the UAE.

“An Indian national hailing from Uttar Pradesh was brutally killed by a group of Indians, mainly from Punjab. This was following a dispute about selling illicit liquor in some areas of Sajaa, a labour accommodation area where the earlier violent crimes also happened. Six Indians involved in butchering an Indian national were arrested and the Sharjah Police is looking out for other gang members involved in the killing. The crime reported during last Eid Holidays indicated that the gang wars over liquor business have resumed,” said a Sharjah Police source.

“He was brutally attacked by a group of Indians and later succumbed to his injuries. Sharjah Police is investigating the case,” the source said, without revealing the victim’s name.

“Normally Indians from Uttar Pradesh are not active in the liquor trade. We are surprised that an Indian from UP was killed brutally by another Indian gang, majority of the members hail from Punjab,” Police source said.

After the Shariah Court in Sharjah sentenced seventeen Indians for murdering and attacking two Pakistani nationals as part of the dispute over illicit liquor sales, the international media went ga ga, depicting it as an India-Pakistan issue. The high-profile murder led to a series of crackdown on the liquor gangs not only in Sajaa but also in other parts of Sharjah, Sonapur and Al Qouz areas. It was in January 2009 that Mistri Nazir Khan, Pakistani, was attacked by 50 Indian men following an alleged dispute between the two rival groups of bootleggers, each claiming control over the lucrative Al Saja'a territory.

The victim’s head was wide open and his four compatriots were also injured in the attack. As the volume of liquor sales came down due to the reduced number of labourers in the construction field, the gangs have started encroaching on others territory, resulting in gang wars.

“The gangs made use of the international political pressure and media campaign following the death sentence of 17 Indians in connection with the murder. This period provided them with ample time to regroup and remerge stronger. They have introduced new and innovative methods to resume liquor trade,” said police sources.

The 17 Indians facing death sentence were bailed out by an Indian philanthropist and businessman, who paid their blood money to the Pakistani families.

About Dh3.4 million was paid to the family members as blood money by SP Singh Oberoi, a leading Indian businessman in the UAE.

Sharjah Police have cracked down on the illicit liquor gangs stored alcohol in abandoned and under construction buildings and other hideouts, but now these gangs are active again, with the latest spirit smuggling reported during the UAE National Day.

The UAE National Flag was used as a cover to smuggle liquor during the National Day celebrations, indicating that the liquor gangs are active again. The Sharjah police have arrested two Indian men who used the occasion of National Day to adorn their car with the UAE flags and load it with liquor to sell their stuff in the emirate. Their car was decorated with National Day symbols to detract police attention.

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