July 3, 2006

Hip-hop producer in cocaine trial in Dubai

DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. hip-hop producer Dallas Austin, who
has worked with stars including Madonna and Michael Jackson,
has pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine during a trial in the
United Arab Emirates, local newspapers said on Monday.

The Gulf News daily said Austin was arrested at the airport
of the Gulf Arab emirate of Dubai on May 19 when police found
at least 1.26 grammes of the drug and other illegal substances
in his possession.

Austin was reportedly flying into Dubai to attend a
birthday party for supermodel Naomi Campbell. "I'm guilty, but
it was a mistake," he was quoted as telling the court. "I
didn't realize I had the drugs with me and I didn't intend to
use them here in the UAE."

Austin appeared before the judge at the Dubai Court of
First Instance in a white shirt and jeans, sporting a diamond
earring, the tabloid 7Days reported.

The judge is due to issue his verdict on Tuesday. Austin
could face at least four years in jail.

Drug trafficking in the UAE carries the death penalty, but
in practice, executions are rare. Drug smuggling convictions of
foreigners often result in a jail term followed by deportation.

Diplomats say Dubai, one of seven emirates that make up the
UAE and the Gulf region's trade and tourism hub, is a busy
route for drug trafficking between Asia and Europe.