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DUBAI: The UAE authorities seized half a tonne of cocaine worth more than $136 million, Dubai police said on Sunday, in one of the biggest drug busts in the Gulf country.

Officers "recently thwarted a smuggling attempt of 500 kilograms of pure cocaine into the country", a police statement said.

"The narcotics, worth more than 500 million dirhams ($136 million) in street value, were well-hidden within the structure of a cargo container."

The United Arab Emirates, made up of seven emirates including Dubai, has a zero tolerance policy towards drug possession.

Police said they foiled the smuggling attempt after receiving a tip about a cargo container carrying the contraband through a sea port.

In the operation dubbed "Scorpion", a suspect of Middle Eastern origin was arrested. Police described the man as an intermediary for an international drug syndicate.

"Once the shipment arrived, the suspect transported the illegal drugs to another emirate and stored them in a warehouse with the aim of selling and promoting the harmful toxins," said Eid Mohammed Thani Hareb, director of the Anti-Narcotics Department, according to the statement.

It added that security officers raided the warehouse and caught the man "red-handed".

Drug smugglers face possible death sentences in the UAE but in practice, executions are rare.

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