Monday, June 10, 2013

What happens at the airport when you're caught with booze

(This was a not-so-funny April Fools Day joke)

So, I'm not going to reveal the identity of the person that this happened to (at her request), but she thought people might be interested in knowing what happens to you when you are caught bringing in booze to Kuwait.  I've done it myself over the years.  My Kuwaiti friends do it.  Other expat friends do it.  It is kinda like having sex out of wedlock:  It is illegal here, but please don't try to tell me that no one is doing it.... just sayin....

Getting caught (and it has happened to me several times) depends on different factors:  If the staff is new, if the airport is busy/lots of flights, or - if they just don't feel like paying attention.  Guess girlfriend just had bad luck.

Here is what my reader had to say:

Dear Desert Girl,
Last night I was caught with a few water bottles of alcohol in my suitcase coming into Kuwait Airport.  It wasn’t my first time over the years being caught.  Usually, the customs reps just take it off you and  you leave.  This time, there seemed to be a quite young, quite new customs rep at the counter (“Lucky 13”).  They no longer put their names on their uniforms, so that no wastah can help.  I guess young 13 was trying to catch a dangerous criminal.

He took the alcohol from me and placed it under the counter.  Then took my passport and put it in his back pocket.  Without any gloves, he proceeded to go through my bag (dirty underwear and all).  He asked me if I had anything else.  I said I didn’t.  Then, he x-rayed my bag a second time and asked to go through my handbag and my laptop bag.  Again, without gloves.  I started to feel creepy and violated.  I didn’t like the thought of someone elses’ hands touching my items.  Likewise, he didn’t know what I had in my bags and he it was obvious he was touching worn clothing.  He didn’t use hand sanitizer.  It was all very disgusting.

The entire time, he directed bad looks my way and scowled.  He told me to follow him to the little security room.  “Come!”  Like calling a dog.

When I got into the security room, there were two other men there.  (I immediately handed them my civil ID.)  Only one spoke English.  He asked me in not a friendly manner why I had brought the alcohol into the country as I should “know better.”  I responded, “to drink it, of course.”  Rotund, sweaty, and very excited Lucky 13 told the men that I had hid the alcohol in my make-up bag (as if this was something unusual).  I said, “What should I have done with it?  Place it on top of the suitcase?”  The senior rep tapped on the table and said, “This is a case. This is a case.”  I said, “Ok, file a case. What else can I do?” I told him I had measured exactly 1.5 litres in volume – that is all I was carrying.  Then I started sending SMSs to my Kuwaiti lawyer (who never responded as he was probably at his chalet with his friends drinking).

The senior gent took a copy of my passport and my civil ID card.  He asked me to sign a paper.  I honestly didn’t think they could make a case with only 1.5 litres of alcohol.  I had heard about the papers people are sometimes asked to sign where you agree never to do it again.  I expected either.  What I was asked to sign was only a paper saying that my suitcase was being returned to me with all my items inside.  (A luggage receipt!)  Then they said I could go.

The purpose of the drama seemed more to intimidate and instil fear than to create a legal problem.  I know that I broke the law, but I am obviously not a hardened criminal and there is no need for people to be unkind or act uncivilized.  They might do with customer service training.

The entire ordeal lasted approximately 20 minutes.


Traveler said...

Well know we know. FWIW I have not drank any alcohol in country, prefering to go to AD to do so. I will be on next Saturdays Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and plan on being totally trashed 1 hour after takeoff. I figure it will take 2 beers :) What can I say, I am a cheap date at this point.

Anonymous said...

Omg desert girl gonna get deported soon :o

Desert Girl said...

Not me, anonymous 2:23. Someone wrote to me about it.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like something Han Solo would say. Good customer service for smugglers. They should exchange the water bottle booze for a Red Label. xx

Anonymous said...

My bags didn't make my connection into Kuwait from London so Emirates offered to bring them to me the next day...Next morning I got a call that customs had held my bag because x-ray showed bottles in it..Duh..I spent the next 2 days pulling wasta and voila! Picked up my bags with everything intact.

Anonymous said...

Legal expats living in this country is facing deportatio, police barging into your home @ 3am jus coz they are Asian. Well your friends brought alcohol into this country and getting caught is no news for us. This country doesn't know the meaning of human right, so go figure

Chirp said...

Hi Desert Girl
I would like to reply to Anon June 13 11:36
-This is not in defense of Kuwait or against Kuwait and it is not a GTFO post. But give me one country that knows the meaning of human rights?
1. The recent factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 400 workers, did you know that they have been told before hand that there was a crack and it was dangerous for people to be in there?? Where was the value for human life when they forced people of their own kind to go to work in a dangerous and life threatening situation?
2. China - many many stories of forced labour camps. Where people and even children are worked with barely any compensation, no days off,nothing at all, and suicide rates are high? Do they value human rights? Or even do they value humans??
3. India - We have ALL heard of the stories of women who are raped day in and day out in india. Women are seen as a liability and not even worth respecting. Have you heard of the 8 year old girl that was GANG raped a couple months back?
4. France - if you look north african or african the police can stop you, search you, ask for identification even if you are a legal resident. They have no anti discrimination laws.
I will not even discuss the US, just read any news paper and see what is happening with immigration laws and illegals.

Desert Girl said...

Chirp - I agree.

Every country has human rights violations and don't get me started on my own country! RRRR.

Kuwait is no different. Its sad where ever it happens.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the nightline showing the children that work in the mines in India? 10 year olds going hundreds of feet down on dangerous rickety ladder just to get to a cramped hole where he digs for hours to get coal. Gets a little bit of money and black lung at the same time. Not a PEEP about the companies Nothing-at-all. Its even been against the law there since 1950's to use children for labor but who gives a poop


Anonymous said...

Well, as harsh as it sounds she deserved it. You're not supposed to break the law and justify it by saying everyone else does it. If someone disrespects the laws in a certain country, they deserve the disrespect they receive in return.

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous 8:40 - I totally agree. I also think that the airport workers (including ranking officers) should be fined for smoking in the airport. I think that those who weave in and out of traffic on the roads should be imprisoned. I believe that officers who rape women (or men or children) while in custody should hang. I further think that Kuwait should eliminate the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality and legalize alcohol in Kuwait.

Anonymous said...

First off you should respect the law of the country, we don't go breaking the law in the USA and if you wanna talk about manners from officers in the airport why not try Miami International Airport, LAX and JF Kennedy. I lived in Miami last year and every time I came into the country I get pulled aside by officers and once I got pulled into an interrogation room at customs in Miami International, they made me wait 3 hours with now air conditioning and asked me a few questions that if they looked at my visa they didn't need to make me wait all this time...reason for that? I don't know maybe cause I am a Muslim an Arab? That for not bringing anything illegal to the country, so have some respect and stick to the countries rules, you guys can't force your ways on us like you did to the Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

Respect the law of the country?

Many Kuwaitis drink, so why should expats obey the law when the Kuwaiti themselves aren't obeying it?

Legalize alcohol already.... before 1965 alcohol was legal in Kuwait.

In 1965, TIME Magazine wrote this about Kuwaitis thirst for liquor:

A month ago the oil-rich sheikdom of Kuwait banned all liquor within its borders, and since then many of its thirsty citizens have been drinking everything in sight from perfume and eau de cologne to rubbing alcohol and Sterno — with predictably disastrous results. By last week, an estimated 150 Kuwaiti had died from alcohol poisoning, several hundred more had been blinded, and Kuwait's hospitals were filled to overflowing. Bathtub gin is flourishing, and bootlegging the real thing has become Kuwait's fastest growing business. A fifth of Dewar's White Label Scotch now commands...


There is no denying that alcohol was banned because so many Kuwaitis were alcoholics and drunk driving in the 1960s... Kuwaitis couldn't live without alcohol. This isn't about ''customs'' and ''religion'', influential Kuwaiti businessmen will lose millions if alcohol is legalized and the amount of car accidents will triple due to drunk Kuwaitis.

Jose Clemente said...

Hii i drink and drive the car in Kuwait so the police catch me and take me to police station and they check my blood,urine,take my finger print take my photo. Then my boss came and pay 50 kd fine and take me to 3 months finish.
Now the question is this is the case is remain or finish. can i go to india my home country ?