Five expats on trial for attempting to bribe Qatari official

Lower criminal court in Doha

Shabina S. Khatri

Lower criminal court in Doha

Five men have been arrested for trying to bribe a customs officer into smuggling an illicit tobacco shipment into Qatar.

One of the defendants appeared in court last week, but charges are not officially expected to be read out against all of them until next month.

According to court documents, the first defendant, a 28-year-old driver, offered a QR200,000 bribe to a customs officer to release a shipment of tobacco that was prohibited from entering the country.

Chewing tobacco for illustrative purposes only.

Adinath Global Exports

Chewing tobacco for illustrative purposes only.

The other defendants included a 50-year-old grocer, a 26-year-old sales representative, a 27-year-old accountant and a man only recently arrested by police who had yet to be interrogated. All are from India.

They stand accused of abetting the first defendant and apparently helping to pay the bribe money and expenses associated with the shipment.

Three of the defendants also face charges of attempting to smuggle prohibited merchandise into Qatar, and flouting inspection protocols.

The case comes at a time when Qatar has been cracking down on corruption, and also on tobacco usage.

Witnesses

Four people are expected to testify against the defendants, including the Qatari customs officer who they allegedly attempted to bribe.

He told the prosecutor that he informed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) early this year of the men’s intentions to bring the shipment into Qatar.

Officials then tracked the various meetings between the officer and the defendants, whose shipment was due to arrive at Doha port on Feb. 13, 2016.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Milaha

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

On that day, the first defendant got into the custom officer’s vehicle and handed him QR100,000 in cash, as well as a check for the remaining amount.

Police then raided the car and arrested him. The first four defendants confessed to the crime when speaking to officers and during their interviews with the prosecutor, court documents said.

After spending some time in custody, the court released them on their own recognizance pending the trial.

The next hearing is expected to be on Nov. 22.

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