Excuse me! Would you mind carrying something for me?

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By Razaz Ainousah

Saudi Gazette


MANY passengers fall victim to good intentions by trusting strangers to carry their bags or goods in domestic and international flights. They unwittingly become innocent mules for these unscrupulous people, who would step forward to reap the benefits, but fade away leaving the innocent passenger taking the fall when caught.

The case of the Egyptian pilgrim, Saddiyah Al-Assi, who fell victim to such deceitful person when she accepted to carry a bag containing 17,000 drug pills, is still fresh in the minds of many. The old pilgrim was not aware of the contents of the bag when she accepted to carry it. Al-Assi was on her way from Cairo to Jeddah for Umrah. But was caught in Jeddah on arrival and detained for more than a month before she was released recently when a joint investigation between Saudi and Egyptian authorities proved her innocence. She was allowed to perform her Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque before returning back home.

Travelers should be forewarned that taking or carrying things that is not theirs does not clear them of any liabilities or penalties, for pleading ignorance is no defense. They should be aware that these devious people would lie, fake issues and also act in such a way to play on the sentiments of the people and force them to agree to carry their things.

Many people find it difficult to say no to passengers, who beg them to take their bags while claiming that this way they would avoid paying for shipping. The softhearted find themselves weak in refusing the person’s plea for help and sob stories of strangers, not aware that the bag contained contents that were illegal in the country they are traveling to. If the passenger gets caught they will find themselves guilty or facing serious consequences while the provider of the content would be scot-free.

Others, who heed this warning of not carrying stuffs given to them by strangers, take no chances and simply find any excuse to say no to strangers and refuse to carry any bag. Very few people agree to carry the bag on the condition of examining its content. And there are those who simply take it without examining the content just because a friend requested them to do so and later fall victim when caught.

With the summer vacation just round the corner and the expected large number of people who would be traveling during and after Ramadan, Saudi Gazette interviewed a number of people who had faced such situations at local and international airports.

“I do not mind helping strangers at the airport, including carrying their bags under my name, provided that I examine the contents of the bag. This is common as I travel back and forth between Saudi Arabia and Canada. I come across this situation many times during my travels,” said Walid Taweli, Saudi student in his late 20s who recently graduated from a university in Canada.

Taweli recalled an incident that got him to be wary even if it was a friend who was requesting him to carry something. When his friend at the university asked him to carry his bag of gifts with him back to Saudi Arabia, the friend told him not to open the bag and check the content. Taweli suspected the intentions of his friend and opened the bag at home to examine the content and found a cosmetic crème inside the bag. Not knowing whether the item was accepted at Saudi Arabia, he had to research it, asking another friend whether this type of crème was allowed in Saudi Arabia. At the end, a friend who was expert in these matters told him that there was nothing wrong with it.

“Since that time, I have learned to be careful even with friends and always examine the content before accepting the bag to avoid any future complications,” he added.

Rami Khoja, a Saudi man in his 40s working in a private company in Jeddah, said, “Everyone has a deep knowledge whom they should trust based on their experience. I would trust my very close family but I will never trust a relative, stranger, and even a friend because I don’t know what their intentions are. Eventually, I have to see what I am carrying with me always to get an idea of what I have with me,” said Khoja.

Khoja, when asked would he trust his sister in law if she asked him to carry a bag for her to the destination he was traveling, said, “He will not check it as he would trust her. But I’ll think twice when a friend at work or a distant relative asked him the same.”

He would examine the content carefully to make sure that nothing illegal is within the bag. “We live in a time where good intentions do not count in court. There are people out there who take advantage of people’s good intention or illiteracy and benefit from it.”

Abu Ahmad, Saudi man in his mid 40s working in a private company, has a different idea. “I only accept carrying stranger’s bag provided that I check it and I place the content in my own empty bag. I only accept clothes in the bag. When I was in Egypt few years ago, my Egyptian friend asked me to carry a bag to his family in Saudi Arabia. I accepted but told him that I will examine the content and transfer the material in my own bag. Although he found my condition strange, but did not object to it. My idea is, if he wanted to transfer drugs or any illegal substance, then it could be hidden carefully inside the bag he brought to me.”

A Saudi woman, who did not wish to reveal her name, encountered a strange situation at the airport on her way to Dubai that made her think twice before accepting any stranger’s package or baggage. She said, “An Arab national, said that he was traveling on the same flight as me and as he had an extra bag did not want to pay extra baggage weight, and asked me if I could check it under my name. I love to help people, so I offered to pay for the charges of the extra weight so he could check it under his name, instead of mine. The reaction of the man was unbelievable, as he got angry and told me that he was not begging for money.

“I told him this is the only way I would help him get his luggage through, if he chose to accept. He got upset again and was on an ‘I’m not begging for money’ rant and this made me more suspicious of his intentions, and why did he want to check in the baggage under my name. At the end, he walked away.”

She said that this incident opened her eyes and since that time, she has been warning her close friends and relatives not to trust friends and strangers who request in the last moment for their package to be carried or check in baggage under their name. For they could fall victims for their trust.

Eman Makki, Saudi housewife in her late 40s, said that her husband always warned her not to carry anything from anyone, even if it was documents. She said that these documents could be politically sensitive in the countries she is traveling to. “These days there are alternative options available. Instead of carrying people documents, it can be sent faster through Aramex or DHL. The same can be said with boxes and packages, it can be sent by air cargo and at a cheaper price.”

Majed Sameer Fadhul, Saudi lawyer, said that if the passenger carrying a stranger’s bag was aware there are illegal contents inside, then he/she is guilty and faces punishment if caught. “The passenger is responsible for everything he/she carries from point A to B. The General Authority of Civil Aviation, GACA, makes this point very clear in the terms and conditions when the passenger purchases the ticket. If the passenger was aware that the content inside the bag contains no illegal materials, then he/she will face no problem. However, if contraband is found in the package carried by the passenger then he/she is responsible for the luggage for is under his/her name.”

TIPS

1- Examine the luggage before carrying it.

2- Read the contract you have entered into when you buy an air ticket. Some airlines may well restrict you from carrying luggage from other people.

3- Refuse to take any items from a stranger because it could contain illegal or counterfeit products.

4- Make sure you are familiar with the relevant laws of the country that you are traveling to.

5- If you are unsure about anything, you should get in touch with the competent authorities via its secure contact form.

6- Check if the item in question is legal in the destination country.

7- Make sure that the products are from legitimate shops and the person provides you with the bill of sale.

8- Avoid carrying any liquid and suspected material.

9- Avoid carrying any medicine or flammable items.

10- Refuse to take any document without having prior knowledge of what is on it.


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