(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.