The (Heroin) French Connection. (Turkey-Syria-Lebanon-Marseille-NY)

by Ghassan Karam

This is a precis of Chapter 2 of the book” The Lebanese Connection: corruption, civil war,and the International drug Traffic” by Jonathan Marshall of Stanford University.  The book is banned in Lebanon . I imagine that one reason for the ban is its indictment of almost every major Lebanese political scion. A summary of chapter one has already been posted under the title Hashish: The petroleum of Lebanon. Chapter II, the following is its summary, makes it clear that Lebanon has been a supplier of opiates almost ever since independence and that all the illicit drug trade took place under the direct knowledge and protection of the most senior of the Lebanese officials. What is very special about the case of drugs in Lebanon is their intimate connection to elected officials. Corruption cannot possibly go any deeper than what this book alleges. I ask again where is the outrage in Lebanon about these revelations? Why is it that no one seems to care that many of  our politicians, over the decades, have been drug pushers. Such a book should generate lots of soul searching. Is Lebanon a state? Does it aspire to become one? Can it do so without investigating these allegations?

 

Beirut’s geographic location made it a center of trade. Its importance was enhanced when French engineers built a highway connecting Beirut to Damascus and constructed also a RR link in addition to a modern harbor in Beirut. All of these facilities strengthened the relationship between Beirut as a gateway for greater Syria and Marseille in France. The role of Beirut as an administrative center for the French mandate after WWI helped strengthen the relationship between the French underworld and Beirut which acted as a conduit for illicit drugs. This special relationship with France favoured the Maronites of Lebanon to play the role of intermediaries in the drug trade.

When Prohibition ended in the US, American criminal elements flocked to France in search of drugs and spirits. The French labs were dependent on Turkish opium smuggled to France through Lebanon. This, in brief is the French Connection made famous by the Gene Hackman film of 1971. Turkish opium brought to France through Lebanon and delivered to NY through Corsican underworld. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics described this trade in a report by stating that the Corsican and Sicilian underworld “obtained massive quantities of morphine base from Lebanon”. The immensity of the French connection became known when a case connected to Lebanese opium smugglers broke in 1960. The FBN’s commissioner, Anslinger, wrote in a report that “Beirut is probably the greatest single transit port in the international in narcotics …and the illicit narcotics traffic in the US is, in a large measure being supplied by Lebanese narcotic traffickers”. These traffickers were well protected by high level Lebanese political figures that one “might well state that the Lebanese Government is in the narcotics business”.

Farid Chehab, the Surete director, was one of the Lebanese officials that had managed to resist being corrupted by the drug trade. He established strong ties with the FBN and informed them that Lebanon started moving into opiates in 1947in cooperation with the Corsicans and the Italian underworld. He also made it clear that the president of the republic and its PM were protecting the hashish trade and explained that the Customs police, separate from the Surete were on the take from traffickers and many a time they would arrange for sham busts by planting some inferior drugs on ships and then proceed to make “well-publicized seizures”.  This relationship with Mr. Chehab had some positive results, Omar Makkouk and Yousef El Etir , two major opiate traffickers , were busted but the biggest Lebanese drug trafficker, Sami Khoury escaped any arrest through the leaks from Cheab’s office. The head of the Customs police was a 30 year old by the name of Edmond Azizeh whose appointment was under the patronage of Hamid Frangieh. The 30 year old Mr. Azizeh was transformed in no time from an “almost penniless” individual to one who leads the good life of the wealthy, thanks to his narcotics associates. But despite all of this the FBN and Azizeh were able to collaborate occasionally. One such effort resulted in seizing over 400 kilograms of opium and 31 kilos of morphine from the Khoury clan. Sami Khoury, born in Zahle was named by the United Nations in 1957 as one of the leading narcotics kingpin in the world, managed to arrange for his release and that of all his associates. He was that well connected. Mr. Khoury was also connected to two other major opium busts 600 pounds on board the Champollion and another 600 pounds on the St. Helene. It was believed that both were smuggled with the help of Lebanese police and the Commissioner of narcotics, Mounir Alaouie. Sami Khoury was a truly international trafficker. His connections in Corsica, Italy and France besides those in Lebanon were also at the highest level. When he was arrested in a Paris bust he served only 4 months and then returned to Lebanon to a heroes welcome. He had earned his name “the untouchable”. In 1957 the Lebanese authorities, under pressure from the UN staged a raid on a Khoury lab, arrested his top chemist and ultimately the investigation led to the indictment of 62 NY traffickers. Yet again Khoury rise from the ashes to sell morphine base to Dominique Albertini, the French Connection chemist.

Fouad Chehab became the new President in 1958 and became known as a reformist. But apparently the most that his administration was willing to do was to arrest both Khoury and Makkouk for 4 months. This arrest, allegedly nudged Sami Khoury to retire and give the day to day operation to his brothers. It is reported that his retirement ended permanently in 1965 when an uncle of the Jordanian King Hussein ordered a hit on both Sami  Khoury and Mounir Alaouie. But like all such shadowy figures there were rumours that he was spotted in London alive and doing well.

A big role in the Lebanese drug trade of this time was played by the Casino Du Liban that opened its doors in December 17, 1959.  Not many Lebanese were aware that the gambling concession of the Casino was awarded by the Chamoun regime to a Marcel Francisci. A major figure in the Corsican underworld and a very close friend of Sami Khoury. Mr. Francisci was even better connected that Sammy Khoury. He was a major supporter of General DeGaulle and was able to ultimately eliminate Antoine Guerini his only competition in Corsica. The Casino Du Liban became very quickly a major destination to the rich and famous whether Saudi emirs and arm dealers such as Adnan Khashoggi, King Hussein, the Shah, Prince Albert, Aristotle Onassis, Omar Shariff among other notables.

Needles to say, the Casino became a major operation for laundering drug money. Sammy “would drive to Damascus, Syria, to purchase morphine base, then bring it across the border… to Casino du Liban, where they made arrangements, through associates of Marcel Francisci, to transport it to secret labs in and around Marseille”. And the next step was NYC. That completed the chain: Turkey Syria, Lebanon, Marseille, and New York. The French Connection was dependent on the Lebanese link.

 

  • Hannibal

    Come on Ghassan… Where is the next article? You’re killing me here… I can read faster than that… You are gonna force me into buying the book. lol

    • Ghassan Karam

       Hannibal,
                   A chapter at a time, that was the original proposal, no? :-)

  • Hannibal

    Come on Ghassan… Where is the next article? You’re killing me here… I can read faster than that… You are gonna force me into buying the book. lol

    • http://profiles.google.com/karam.ghassan Ghassan Karam

       Hannibal,
                   A chapter at a time, that was the original proposal, no? :-)

  • ghzayel

    ghassan,

    welcome to lebanon or shall we say welcome to the pirates cove!!!

    no wonder why this country has been plagued since day one by civil wars, corrupt governments and crooked political leaders, not to forget the passive role of the religious figures keeping a blind eye on all the criminal activities going on at best and maybe participating in the loot of an entire nation. 
    since most of the media in lebanon sold out to the highest paying crooked politicians, no one would expect any light to be shed on this subject from within the country.

    you are doing a great job shedding some light on this taboo subject and i believe more should come from all the lebanese expatriates who would like to see justice, human kindness, and decency reestablished in the land of their ancestors.

    furthermore, expatriates should profit from whatever freedom and connections leverage they have worldwide, thus  they can start exposing the lebanese mafia leaders worldwide and help the lebanese judicial system cleanse itself from the corrupt elements and assume its responsibilities in order to put a significant dent on all endemic criminal activities in lebanon.  

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       ghzayel,
                  I am bewildered why no one in the Lebanese press has picked up on this most sensational of stories. Can you imagine if such revelations are made public in say France, the UK, Australia, the US… that would be more than enough to topple governments and end political careers. But not in Lebanon. Petraeus had to resign just for an affair while Geagea, Gemayel, Jumblatt, Amal… are not even investigated to being international drug traffickers. At times I wonder if the public really cares. The beat goes on.

      • ghzayel

        ghassan,

        wa laou fehmak kfeye alla yerham the lebanese press of gebran tueni and samir kassir;
        it has been terrorized self censured domesticated bought and sold to the highest bidders among lebanese rulers.

        in order to perform its duties to the fullest, the press needs the backing of a strong
        independent non sectarian and impartial judicial system to help investigate and
        reveal the truth about the illegal activities of lebanese rulers; a crucial and
        necessary condition currently not available in lebanon.

        since the declaration of independence till today not even once did we witness the
        prosecution to the full extent of the law of any corrupt high government
        officials, political or religious leaders.

        two logical explanations come to mind:

        1- the rulers of lebanon are infallible and exemplary figures revered by all citizens
        alike???????

        2-the rulers of lebanon are about to break the guinness book of records for the most
        corrupt officials worldwide!!!!

        nevertheless and since you mentioned it, i am also bewildered why most foreign nations and
        even the big powers who pretend to be so concerned about the safety and welfare
        of lebanon and its people keep covering up and dealing with lebanese mafia leaders like business as usual???

      • dateam

        just to add to that a minister in the nsw government in australia has been forced to resign because he bought a car at a heavily discounted price…what a difference in worlds…..

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

           “FORMER NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald conferred “massive
          cascading profits” of $100 million on his then Labor colleague Eddie
          Obeid and his family, a corruption inquiry has been told.” It seems Arabs aren’t the only ones corrupt. Seriously tho corruption is part and parcel of politics and if anyone thinks otherwise then i have a bridge to sell them.

      • 5thDrawer

        The general ‘public’ is too busy tying to make ends meet and have candles to see by at night.

  • ghzayel

    ghassan,

    welcome to lebanon or shall we say welcome to the pirates cove!!!

    no wonder why this country has been plagued since day one by civil wars, corrupt governments and crooked political leaders, not to forget the passive role of the religious figures keeping a blind eye on all the criminal activities going on at best and maybe participating in the loot of an entire nation. 
    since most of the media in lebanon sold out to the highest paying crooked politicians, no one would expect any light to be shed on this subject from within the country.

    you are doing a great job shedding some light on this taboo subject and i believe more should come from all the lebanese expatriates who would like to see justice, human kindness, and decency reestablished in the land of their ancestors.

    furthermore, expatriates should profit from whatever freedom and connections leverage they have worldwide, thus  they can start exposing the lebanese mafia leaders worldwide and help the lebanese judicial system cleanse itself from the corrupt elements and assume its responsibilities in order to put a significant dent on all endemic criminal activities in lebanon.  

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       ghzayel,
                  I am bewildered why no one in the Lebanese press has picked up on this most sensational of stories. Can you imagine if such revelations are made public in say France, the UK, Australia, the US… that would be more than enough to topple governments and end political careers. But not in Lebanon. Petraeus had to resign just for an affair while Geagea, Gemayel, Jumblatt, Amal… are not even investigated to being international drug traffickers. At times I wonder if the public really cares. The beat goes on.

      • ghzayel

        ghassan,

        wa laou
        fehmak kfeye alla yerham the lebanese press of gebran tueni and samir kassir;
        it has been terrorized self censured and domesticated.

        in order
        to perform its duties to the fullest, the press needs the backing of a strong
        independent non sectarian and impartial judicial system to help investigate and
        reveal the truth about the illegal activities of lebanese rulers; a crucial and
        necessary condition currently not available in lebanon.

        since
        the declaration of independence till today not even once did we witness the
        prosecution to the full extent of the law of any corrupt high government
        officials, political or religious leaders.

        two
        logical explanations come to mind:

        1- the
        rulers of lebanon are infallible and exemplary figures revered by all citizens
        alike???????

        2-the
        rulers of lebanon are about to break the guinness book of records for the most
        corrupt officials worldwide!!!!

        nevertheless
        and since you mentioned it, i am also bewildered why most foreign nations and
        even the big powers who pretend to be so concerned about the safety and welfare
        of lebanon and its people keep covering up and dealing with lebanese mafia leaders like business as usual???

         

      • dateam

        just to add to that a minister in the nsw government in australia has been forced to resign because he bought a car at a heavily discounted price…what a difference in worlds…..

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

           “FORMER NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald conferred “massive
          cascading profits” of $100 million on his then Labor colleague Eddie
          Obeid and his family, a corruption inquiry has been told.” It seems Arabs aren’t the only ones corrupt. Seriously tho corruption is part and parcel of politics and if anyone thinks otherwise then i have a bridge to sell them.

      • 5thDrawer

        The general ‘public’ is too busy tying to make ends meet and have candles to see by at night.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

    Preview,
               I doubt it whether anyone would suggest that corruption has been eliminated in any society. There is a big difference though between having crime in a community and having the community be run by criminals. When the patients are running the asylum then the asylum is no longer functioning :-) Ian Mcdonald and Eddie Obeid will probably be investigated while in our case the drug pushers and the warlords are in charge of legislation.

  • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

    Preview,
               I doubt it whether anyone would suggest that corruption has been eliminated in any society. There is a big difference though between having crime in a community and having the community be run by criminals. When the patients are running the asylum then the asylum is no longer functioning :-) Ian Mcdonald and Eddie Obeid will probably be investigated while in our case the drug pushers and the warlords are in charge of legislation.

  • 5thDrawer

    Great supplier of good illegal stuff, but can’t get fake prescription drugs up to the same quality … tsk.