Saudi Arabia and Turkey yesterday foiled the attempted smuggling of over eight million amphetamine pills. The drug haul highlighted the widespread production and smuggling of narcotics across the region.
Saudi customs officials announced the seizure of 2,312,000 pills found in a refrigerated lorry being driven into the country. Video footage was also released, showing the officials pulling out bags of pills hidden under the vehicle's floor. Four non-Saudi citizens were detained by the authorities in connection with the incident.
Over the weekend, the authorities in Turkey seized an even larger haul of over 6.2 million pills at the port of Iskenderun. Worth over $37 million, the haul was found hidden in 11 containers at the port which were intended for transit to the United Arab Emirates.
Officially branded as Captagon, a synthetic amphetamine distributed and consumed widely in the region, the trade in illegal narcotics has grown significantly over the past few years.
Major smuggling shipments to be intercepted include 33 million pills in Greece in 2019 and another of over 44 million pills seized by the Saudi authorities in April last year. In July last year, Italian authorities seized the largest shipment ever recorded, at over 84 million pills.
At first, such operations were suspected of being masterminded by the Daesh terrorist group. It was then proven, however, that the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad was producing and smuggling the narcotics, in efforts to circumvent international sanctions due to its war crimes in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
Last month, Saudi Arabia announced that it had seized more than 600 million amphetamine pills over the past few years, and implemented a ban on the import of fruit and vegetables from Lebanon. Such consignments have been used to hide the drug smuggling operations.