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Italy: Police seize ‘largest ever’ shipment of amphetamines

July 2, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Over 127 plastic bags filled with an addictive drug called Captagon lie ready for destruction after being seized by US and Coalition partners in Southern Syria, May 31, 2018. [US Army/ WIkipedia]

Italian police have seized the largest ever shipment of amphetamines, believed to have been smuggled by the terror group Daesh based in Syria. The seizure of around 84 million amphetamine tablets with a street value estimated at $1 billion was announced yesterday.

Experts say that such a large shipment was attempted, even though narcotics are usually smuggled in smaller quantities, because of the short supply in Europe during the Coronavirus pandemic. The smugglers were tempted, they say, to take the greater risk of a massive shipment.

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The tablets were hidden within three containers filled with agricultural products and machinery. They were linked back to Daesh as the tablets were marked with the logo of the drug called Captagon – or Fenethylline – which was reportedly a popular drug within the Middle East during the 1990s. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, this is now stamped on amphetamines produced by Daesh.

Reports claim that the drug was given regularly to Daesh volunteers before going into battle or conducting terrorist attacks, as it reduces feelings of fear and reluctance while preventing the user from feeling much physical pain. Its use has led to security agencies calling it “the jihad drug”.

Although the drugs are said to have a link to Daesh, there is speculation that the shipment may have been sent by the Syrian regime. It is the Assad regime which controls the port in Latakia from which it came; Daesh has no access to it.

The Assad regime is known to have conducted numerous drug smuggling operations throughout the ongoing Syrian civil war, during which the country has been a major hub for the illegal narcotics trade. It has been particularly active in smuggling operations under US and EU sanctions to get funds for the war effort.

Earlier this year, for example, two major drug smuggling operations conducted by the Syrian regime were busted. One was thwarted in Egypt with amphetamine pills on their way to Libya, and in the other case the Saudi Arabian authorities seized over 44 million of the pills.

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The Italian police say that the massive shipment was probably destined to be distributed by “a consortium of criminal groups” across Europe; it was simply too big for a single group. The police suspect, however, that the largest buyer and distributor of the drugs was likely to be the Camorra organised crime syndicate, based in Naples, which has strong international ties.

According to a police spokesman in Italy, they learnt of the arrival of the latest shipment during “ongoing investigations we have with the Camorra,” in which they “intercepted phone calls and members, so we knew what to expect.”