Saudi authorities have busted a string of alcohol producing dens, according to local media.
Officials detained a group of seven Africans caught making home brewed alcohol, a spokesman for Makkah provincial police told the Saudi Gazette.
The group were caught making and selling highly intoxicating arak alcohol in mountainous areas outside the city, the report said.
A Sri Lankan woman was also arrested for running an alcohol-brewing factory in the Faiyha District of eastern Riyadh, reports also claimed.
With bottles of alcohol, such as vodka, changing hands for as much as $150, the underground trade in the kingdom is rife. In 2003, a group of British expats were sentenced to be beheaded after they were found to be involved in a bloody turf war among rival gangs who sought to control the lucrative bootleg alcohol trade. Following an intervention by the London government, they were pardoned by the late King Fahd.
Those caught consuming or possessing alcohol face up to 500 lashes, jail and/or deportation and Saudi authorities often carry through with the floggings.
There is little official data on the level of consumption in the kingdom, but figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that projected alcohol consumption per capita in Saudi Arabia is 0.34 litres of pure alcohol per person per year. By comparison, it is 0.52 litres per person per year in the UAE and 13.24 litres per person per year in the UK.
A 2003 WHO report on alcohol also highlighted some interesting facts and figures. It estimated that the extent of alcohol use in Saudi Arabia is “considerable” and that data from the last five years suggested a stable trend in its the use.
An organiser who spoke to Arabian Business said the meetings had a broad range of nationalities attending, including local Saudis. A trend they also pointed out was the growth of meetings for women only, with the AA leader pointing out that alcohol addiction does not adhere to race or gender and is a universal issue.
Saudi Arabia is therefore aware of the problem, even as far back as 1979 it was one of a host of countries to propose a WHO draft resolution into the development of a programme to tackle alcohol-related problems. The case of the pensioner currently making headlines in the UK is unlikely to be the last such story to come to light, especially as expats continue to take risks in the pursuit of alcoholic highs.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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