Lebanon seizes millions of captagon pills in a shipment of oranges

Lebanese authorities have intercepted millions of pills of the recreational drug captagon hidden inside fake oranges in a real fruit shipment.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said on Wednesday that customs officers had seized “almost 9 million captagon tablets” in the port of Beirut, noting that the cargo was on its way to a Gulf country.

Captagon – a mixture of amphetamine also known as “the poor man’s cocaine” – is one of the more popular recreational drugs among wealthy young people in the Middle East.

It is manufactured mainly in Lebanon and Syria, much of it is on the way to illegal recreational use in Saudi Arabia.

A customs officer confirmed to AFP that the latest seizure was on its way to Kuwait.

An investigation has been launched to determine the source.

Lebanon – which suffers from political paralysis and economic crisis – has stepped up efforts to discourage trade in captains through its ports following criticism from the Gulf countries over lack of cooperation.

Customs agents check a shipment of oranges in boxes.
The fake fruit filled with captagon pills was hidden among real fruit.(AFP: Anwar Amro)

This was the second regional seizure in a week with the captagon hidden in fruit.

On December 23, Dubai police said they arrested four men “of Arab nationality” for trying to smuggle millions of dollars into the United Arab Emirates.

The more than 1 million pills were stored in plastic lemons among a shipment of real lemons.

Saudi Arabia announced in April that imports of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon were suspended following the seizure of more than 5 million captagon pills stored in fruit.

Captagon is a trademark of the amphetamine-type stimulating phenethylline.

The counterfeit version of the drug often contains amphetamine along with caffeine and other drugs.

According to an EU-funded report by the Center for Operational Analysis and Research, captagon exports from Syria reached a market value of at least $ 3.46 billion [$4.77 billion] in 2020.

In November, the Syrian army said it seized half a ton of captagon hidden in a spaghetti shipment before it could be smuggled out of the country.

AFP / Reuters

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