Eid Al Fitr in UAE: Fireworks sold via WhatsApp? Police launch massive crackdown on illegal online sellers

A number of traders were caught running the racket on social media, offering firecrackers at cheap prices and packaging them as 'gifts' to attract children


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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Published: Sun 16 Apr 2023, 2:19 AM

Last updated: Sun 16 Apr 2023, 7:13 PM

UAE authorities have launched a massive crackdown targeting online platforms that are illegally selling fireworks and fireworks ahead of Eid Al Fitr celebrations. The operation comes after a "large number" of complaints were sent to the police via social media.

Police investigations confirmed that several websites and social media handles are promoting firecrackers as 'gifts', mainly to attract children. The items are sold at cheap prices, and can be delivered for free.

Selling fireworks without all mandatory UAE permits is strictly prohibited, police officials reiterated. Unauthorised traders had previously been caught running the racket online. Many were busted in different emirates and referred to the public prosecution.

A top official at the Dubai Police's Protective Security and Emergency Department said these fireworks are usually sold through anonymous accounts and websites. No phone numbers are published online; instead, they are contacted via private messaging apps channels.

Brig Ibrahim Mussabah Al Ajel, deputy director of the Sharjah Police's operations department, said perpetrators would usually connect with the customers through WhatsApp and offer to deliver the firecrackers.

This modus operandi had prompted the police to activate their online patrols — which scour through websites and platforms, looking out for accounts that could be selling fireworks without a licence.

Recently, the Sharjah Police spotted some suspicous social media accounts handled by Asian individuals. "Some officers then posed as buyers, and upon the items' delivery, the group was caught red-handed, and subsequently referred to court," Brig Al Ajel said.

Dangers of using fireworks

The authorities have been exerting every effort to combat the crime and monitor the such activities. However, the issue persists because there remain customers who are demanding the service, particularly during special occasions like Eid, the police said.

"‘If any individual or company in Dubai wants to have a big event using fireworks, they must approach the emirate's municipality and the Dubai Police,” the top official said.

Explaining why stringent measures are in place to control the sale of these explosive devices, he said: “In many cases, the use of firecrackers led to burns and deformities, sometimes even lifelong disabilities. Careless use of these things could also result in fires at home."

He added that police will continue running its awareness campaign on the dangers and environmental impact associated with firecrackers and fireworks.

What the law says

Under the federal law concerning weapons, ammunition, military equipment, and hazardous materials, fireworks are considered explosives.

As per the law, it is illegal to acquire, possess, import, export, re-export, transit, ship in stages, trade, manufacture, repair, transport, or dispose of explosives in any form —without obtaining a licence or permit from the licensing authority or the entity concerned.

Unauthorised trading, manufacturing or bringing fireworks and firecrackers into the country is a crime punishable by imprisonment for no less than a year and a minimum fine of Dh100,000 or one of these two penalties, according to Article No. 54 of the law.

Even those who set off fireworks without a permit could face fines of at least Dh50,000, according to Article 39 and Article 59 of the Federal Decree-Law No. 17 of 2019.

Reminder for parents

Considerig that unlicensed sellers of firecrackers are targeting youngsters, the police have called on parents to keep an eye on their children's online activity.

Brig Abdullah Saif Al Matroushi, director of the Ajman Police's operations department, also urged them to educate their kids on the dangers of using these explosive devices.

"Firecrackers may cause burns and various deformities that often lead to permanent or temporary disabilities, in addition to property damage from possible fire incidents," Brig Al Matroushi said.

He also called on the public to support the police's crackdown on illegal fireworks sellers. Report any suspicious online accounts, the authorities added.


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