Libyan National Army leader Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have been accused of conducting illegal drug smuggling operations by Libya’s Interior Minister Fathi Baghasha.
In a social media post yesterday, Baghasha alleged that, “Haftar’s Army Investment Commission has been in collaboration with [the] Assad regime for some time, and trying to open an air and sea corridor through Libya, so as to gain illegal financial benefits.”
The minister in the Government of National Accord referred to the Egyptian authorities’ discovery of over four tons of narcotics hidden in milk cartons on a ship docked at Port Said two weeks ago. The vessel came from Syria and was heading for the Libyan port of Benghazi, which is controlled by Haftar’s forces.
That incident was followed by an operation by Saudi Arabian security forces which busted a huge drug-smuggling operation, with over 40 million narcotic tablets being found in herbal drink packages from Syria which were intended to enter the Kingdom.
Both drug trafficking operations were traced back to companies controlled and headed by influential Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf, who is Assad’s cousin. Makhlouf has recently fallen out of favour with Assad and is currently under house arrest, having been stripped of his assets by the regime that he helped to build.
Baghasha said that these illegal trafficking activities have been used by both Haftar and Assad to finance their armed forces in the conflicts in Libya and Syria respectively, particularly in the face of foreign sanctions. Similar incidents have occurred over the years: in 2018, for example, Greece seized the largest single haul of amphetamine pills that were also found to have been shipped from Syria.
The GNA official added that the Libyan government is now in contact with Interpol and has called on the UN and international community to take action against these criminal activities.