As Johnny Depp's character in Blow can surely attest, being a bona fide smuggler isn't all about rectal cavities and acting like the real life Han Solo. It's also about a very real and deadly game of cat and mouse with countless international agencies, a tangled mass of fluctuating borders, and a hell of a lot of corrupt officials. Alas, one unfortunate dealer in contraband just learned the hard way that staying atop this lucrative and delicate dance of shadows isn't easy, especially in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabian officials announced yesterday that they confiscated 48,000 cans of beer disguised at Pepsi cans. Reports say a man attempted to bring the alcohol through the Al Batha border, which Saudi Arabia shares with the United Arab Emirates. Just in case you were wondering, we're talking about 48,000 cans of emerald-colored Heineken, all wrapped in bright blue Pepsi regalia. A video posted on the Saudi Customs Agency's Twitter page shows a knife-wielding border agent deftly removing the cans' Pepsi wrapping to reveal the concealed Heineken logos.
— الجمارك السعودية (@KsaCustoms) November 11, 2015
Our intrepid smuggler came up with what seemed to be, like, totally, the perfect plan for bringing his contraband Heinies past Saudi Arabia's stringent borders. Too bad the deeply conservative desert kingdom happens to have among the most secure borders in the entire world. And it goes without saying that they certainly ain't down with Saudi broskis getting mad faded on brewski.
This week's smuggler is not the only Saudi with a yen for booze. A few months ago, Saudi officials caught a man trying to cross Bahrain's border with Saudi Arabia. This enterprising gent had 12 bottles of liqueur sewn into his pants. Another recently foiled smuggling attempt involved some 19,000-alcohol bottles hidden among tomato paste and rice shipments.
— الجمارك السعودية (@KsaCustoms) September 14, 2015
Saudi Arabia maintains its strict stance against alcohol despite evidence that people there manage to do some drinking. You don't want to get caught, though. And expats are not exempt from the no-alcohol laws. Just last month, the children of a 74-year-old British oil executive asked Prime Minister David Cameron to step in and try to save their father from being publicly flogged for harboring bottles of homemade wine in his car, which were found by Saudi police. In a statement, the executive's family said: "Our father has given 25 years of his working life to Saudi Arabia, and this is how he is treated. Until his arrest, he has always been happy working there and felt safe."
Does flogging really happen? Yup. An Australian grandfather was thrown into jail for six months and flogged 28 times for drinking beer in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
And the fun and games in Saudi Arabia evidently don't begin and end with beer or homemade hooch. A few days ago, a member of Saudi Arabia's royal family was among five nationals arrested after allegedly attempting to transport two tons of amphetamines onto a private plane bound from Beirut to Saudi Arabia.
So Saudi Arabia is pretty damn vigilant when it comes to substances. Too bad it isn't this on top of its pretty appalling human rights record. At least we can all take comfort in the fact that they've got that clandestine beer market on lockdown.