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Thousands of Captagan tablets bound for Saudi Arabia were seized in the petrol tank of a white BMW.
Thousands of Captagan tablets bound for Saudi Arabia were seized in the petrol tank of a white BMW.

Dubai police smash Captagon plot

Three men are held and 158,000 tablets of illegal stimulant seized after a stakeout targeting an alleged cross-border smuggling operation.

DUBAI // Police foiled an attempt to smuggle 23kg of the drug Captagon into Saudi Arabia when they found 158,000 tablets of the illegal stimulant hidden in a car's petrol tank. Acting on a tip-off from Saudi police they discovered the drugs in a white BMW parked in a desert area on the outskirts of Dubai. They arrested three men after staking out the area where the car had been left.

The wholesale value in Europe of 23kg of Captagon is about Dhs2.5 million (US$681,000). Dubai Police, however, do not put an illicit market - or street - value on drug seizures in the UAE. The arrests followed a joint operation by police investigating a GCC-wide drug-smuggling ring. "With the co-operation of Saudi police and the general command of the Dubai Police, we have been able to seize a gang attempting to smuggle 23kg of the amphetamine Captagon into a neighbouring GCC state," said Brig Abdul Jalil Mahdi, director of the anti-narcotics unit at Dubai Police. After ascertaining the validity of the information in co-ordination with the Saudi authorities, we set up a team and rushed to the site of the car.

"After inspecting it carefully and disassembling it we found a quantity of pills hidden in a professional manner - in the fuel tank." Lacking sufficient evidence to lead them to the gang, the police decided to reassembled the car and stake out the location. "We waited for more than 24 hours before two suspects approached the vehicle," said Brig Mahdi. The police moved in and arrested the two men as soon as they entered the vehicle.

They both denied the charges. A third suspect was later arrested in connection with the haul. The case has been referred to the Public Prosecution for further investigation. Brig Mahdi said the UAE faced a growing risk of being targeted by drug smugglers, given the amount of foreign interest attracted by the area's rapid development. In February, Dubai Police intercepted 33kg of heroin bound for South Africa via Dubai.

The efforts led police to another package containing 19kg of heroin, which was also on its way to South Africa. Last month Dubai Customs seized 651,000 pills, or 104kg, of Captagon bound for Dubai. They were hidden in industrial-sized spools of thread, packaged as though they would be sold for use in the textiles market. At the end of January 2008, four men were arrested after Dubai Customs seized 16kg of heroin that had been smuggled into the country in hollowed-out almonds. In the same month Sharjah Police seized 1kg of heroin and 290g of opium and arrested three people from one family.

Known locally as Abu Hilalain, Captagon is the brand name for a synthetic stimulant called fenethylline that was invented in the early 1960s. It was later banned worldwide but is popular among some young people in the Arab world who use it recreationally, to stay awake or as a weight-loss aid. Much of the drug circulating is counterfeit. shafez@thenational.ae

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