What you need to know about smuggling of products in the UAE?

criminal law


August 30, 2022



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In common language, smuggling is understood as the illegal import or export of products into or out of a country.

In the UAE, the law governing smuggling is the Federal Decree No. 15 of 2022 On the Ratification of the Common Customs Law of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and Its Implementing Regulation (Common Customs Law).

Smuggling under the UAE Law.

According to Article 142 of the Common Customs Law, smuggling refers to the act or attempting of getting goods into or out of the country in violation of the legislation in force without payment of the customs taxes / duties, either in whole or in part or contrary to the provisions of the UAE laws.

Additionally, the Common Customs Law describes specified actions which are to be treated as smuggling. These have been set out under Article 142 and include, but are not limited to: not following the routes specified for getting the goods into or out of the country, goods that were not declared at customs found concealed in hiding places or placed in gaps or spaces that are not usually designed to contain such goods, goods overpassing the customs without declaration upon entry or exit, goods being taken out of free zones or duty-free zones or customs zones without completing customs procedures, holding or transporting restricted or prohibited goods without proof of authority to legally import, or importing or taking out counterfeit or fraudulent goods.

Criminal Liability for Smuggling Goods

Smuggling of goods could result in criminal sanctions.

Like with other crimes which require mens rea, in accordance with Article 144 of the Common Customs Law, criminal liability in smuggling requires existence of intent with the applicable penal provisions to be observed in determining this liability.

Article 144 of the Common Customs Law states that the following persons in particular shall be held criminally liable:

  1. the principal offenders

  2. the accomplices

  3. the accessories and instigators

  4. the possessors of smuggled goods

  5. the owners and drivers of the means of transportation used in smuggling and the driver assistants, whose relation to the smuggled goods is proven

  6. the owners, tenants or usufructuaries of the shops and premises where the smuggled goods are placed.

What Are the Penalties Applicable to Smuggling of Goods?

The penalties of smuggling products in or out of the country have been described under Article 145 of the Common Customs Law. 

According to this Article, the punishments as applicable to smuggling are as follows.

  1. If the smuggled items are subject to high customs taxes, penalty would be fine not less than twice the customs tax payable and not more than 3 times the customs tax or twice the value of the goods, whichever is higher, and / or imprisonment between 1 month to 1 year. For other cases, penalties include a fine not less than double the customs tax payable and not more than the value of the goods and / or imprisonment between 1 month to 1 year. 

  1. If the smuggled goods are exempted from paying custom duties, the penalty would be a fine of not less than 10% of the value of the goods and not more than their value and/ or imprisonment between 1 month to 1 year. 

  1. If the smuggled goods are goods which are prohibited to be exported or imported, the penalty is a fine not less than the value of the goods and not more than 3 times their value and/ or imprisonment for a term between 6 months and 3 years. 

  1. The smuggled goods will be confiscated and the payment of an amount equivalent to their value will be ordered when they are not seized.

The penalties will be doubled in case of re-commission of offenses.

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