The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How do you smuggle 48,000 cans of Heineken into Saudi Arabia? Disguise it as Pepsi.

Legally, alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia. In reality, however, there are people in the country who drink.

If you're wondering how exactly they actually get that alcohol, consider the multiple reports in the Saudi press today that describe how the Saudi authorities at border with United Arab Emirates caught a man with 48,000 cans of Heineken – all disguised as Pepsi cola.

“A truck carrying what first seemed to be normal cans of the soft drink Pepsi was stopped and after the standard process of searching the products, it became clear that the alcoholic beers were covered with Pepsi’s sticker logos,” Al Batha border General Manager Abdulrahman al-Mahna was quoted as saying, according to Al Arabiya News.

Video shared by the Saudi customs agency shows just how convincing the disguises were.

Customs officials in Saudi Arabia peeled off Pepsi labels to uncover 48,000 cans of Heineken being smuggled into the country illegally. (Video: Twitter/KSA Customs)

This isn't the first time smugglers have gone to inventive measures to get alcohol into Saudi Arabia. Just a couple of months ago, a Saudi man was caught on the border with Bahrain with 12 bottles of liquor sewed into his trousers, and Saudi authorities recently said they found more than  19,000 bottles of alcoholic drinks hidden in a shipment of rice and tomato paste.

As silly as that sounds, the punishment for smuggling alcohol can be severe. Saudi citizens – and sometimes foreigners, too – can be sentenced to prison and floggings if they are caught.

The World Health Organization estimates that the rate of alcohol consumption per capita in Saudi Arabia is 0.2 liters per adult, one of the lowest in the world. However, given that almost all of this drinking happens illicitly, this estimate may be inaccurate.

More on WorldViews

British family says 74-year-old grandfather faces 350 lashes from Saudi Arabia for illegal wine

The facts — and a few myths — about Saudi Arabia and human rights