Lebanon seizes Captagon concealed in tea shipment bound for Saudi Arabia

Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi (R) gives a press conference about a seizure of a cache of Captagon tablets, Beirut on January 25, 2022. (AFP)
Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi (R) gives a press conference about a seizure of a cache of Captagon tablets, Beirut on January 25, 2022. (AFP)

Lebanon has seized a large quantity of Captagon pills hidden in a tea shipment bound for Saudi Arabia, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said on Tuesday.

The shipment was destined for Saudi Arabia, which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says is the world’s biggest consumer of Captagon, a stimulant derived from a banned fenethylline-based drug.

The Captagon pills were packed in plastic bags and hidden in a tea shipment that was bound for Saudi Arabia

Mr Mawlawi told Lebanese TV the pills, hidden inside more than 450 crates of tea, were seized on their way by sea to Togo. He said the shipment would then have been sent to Saudi Arabia

The Middle East is facing a Captagon crisis after production, trafficking and consumption of the drug skyrocketed in the past decade, with the small, off-white pills rising to become the region’s most popular drug.

Police foiled an attempt to smuggle more than a million Captagon pills into Dubai hidden in plastic lemons

“Painstaking police work led to the seizure of a Captagon shipment, which was headed to Togo in Africa,” Mr Mawlawi said at a press conference. Lebanese security forces said that the shipment would then be sent from the African country to Saudi Arabia.

The amphetamine pills, probably manufactured in Lebanon or Syria, were concealed in a seven-tonne shipment of tea at Beirut port, Mr Mawlawi said.

Saudi customs at Jeddah Islamic Port foiled an attempt last April to smuggle Captagon pills hidden in pomegranates . Pomegranates were not yet in season in Lebanon . Typically they are harvested in August and September , besides Lebanon imports most of its pomegranates from Syria. The Iranian backed Hezbollah militant group was accused of being behind the criminal activity. Hezbollah reportedly manufactures the Captagon pills in Syria and Bekaa near the Lebanese Syrian border . April 2021

Saudi Arabia applied devastating trade restrictions on Beirut last year after the seizure of a huge shipment originating from Lebanon, containing Captagon concealed in pomegranates.

Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic crisis and is aiming to mend ties with the kingdom and other Gulf countries.

In another major seizure at Beirut port last month, about nine million Captagon pills were found hidden in fake oranges.

Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassan al-Mawlawi, left, checks one of the fake oranges filled with Captagon (an illegal drug) pills [Anwar Amro/AFP]

More than 25 million pills of Captagon have been seized across the region since the start of the year alone, according to AFP.

Over $3 billion worth of Captagon amphetamine has been seized from Hezbollah-led drug network since February last year.

The National/ Agencies