Saudi To Allow Sale Of Alcohol To Non-Muslim Diplomats To Curb Illicit Trade

Saudi Arabia plans to allow the sale of alcohol to non-Muslim diplomats for the first time, two sources familiar with the plan told AFP on Wednesday.

Alcohol “will be sold to non-Muslim diplomats” who previously had to import alcohol via a diplomatic pouch, one of the sources said.

Prohibition has been the law of the land in Saudi Arabia since 1952, shortly after one of King Abdulaziz’s sons got drunk and, in a rage, shot dead a British diplomat.

Rumours have swirled for years that alcohol would become available in the Gulf kingdom amid a wave of social reforms introduced as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, among them the introduction of cinemas and mixed-gender music festivals.

A Saudi government statement on Wednesday said authorities were introducing “a new regulatory framework… to counter the illicit trade of alcohol goods and products received by diplomatic missions”.

The statement added: “The new process will focus on allocating specific quantities of alcohol goods when entering the Kingdom to put an end to the previous unregulated process that caused an uncontrolled exchange of such goods in the Kingdom.”

The rules in place until now leave most of Saudi Arabia’s 32 million people with few ways to imbibe.

Beyond attending diplomatic receptions, they can make homemade wine or turn to the black market, where bottles of whiskey can go for hundreds of dollars ahead of holidays like New Year’s Eve.

Under Saudi law, penalties for consumption or possession of alcohol can include fines, jail time, public flogging and deportation for foreigners.

Culled from AFP