Dubai forum told how drugs are funding terrorism and the purchase of weapons
Hezbollah-linked drug dealers tried to sell narcotics on streets of UAE
Drug traffickers linked to Hezbollah were arrested trying to bring narcotics into the UAE in an attempt to fund the militant group's activities, a senior security official has said.
Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and General Security in Dubai, told a summit in Dubai on Monday that the gang had been arrested and a link to the Iran-backed Lebanese network was identified.
In addition to raising funds for the militia, which has been accused of undermining and destabilising Lebanon's government, dealers working for radical groups have also tried to corrupt young people in GCC states, he said.
Dubai's most senior security official was speaking at the annual Hemaya International Forum and Exhibition on Drug Issues, which is attended by law enforcement personnel and academics from around the world.
“Top officials from Hezbollah who were involved in drugs trafficking were among those arrested in last year," he said, without elaborating. He said the case was the result of "intensive investigation … and intelligence information".
"This group was sent to our country by Hezbollah from Lebanon," he said.
“Sources in Lebanon have informed us that GCC countries are being targeted by extremists."
US law enforcement agencies have been investigating Hezbollah's fund-raising activities in recent years and last month the US Congress began considering a bill that will give President Donald Trump the authority to designate Hezbollah “a significant foreign narcotics trafficker."
Hezbollah has been widely linked to the cocaine trade and South American cartels.
More broadly, a total of 515 drug suppliers, 1,235 drug dealers and 4,689 drug addicts were arrested across the UAE in 2017.
Lt Gen Khalfan said: “We are facing a major issue. Can you believe that those people are paid to insert drugs in their stomachs in an attempt to smuggle huge quantities of drugs?"
Hassan Harak, from Egypt's Addiction Treatment and Abuse Fund, said drugs are paying for extremist groups to wage war on governments.
“Money generated from drug trade has been used to buy weapons. We are facing this issue in North Sinai. Forces in our country are fighting against drug cultivation and narcotics trafficking," he said.
“Extremists distribute drugs to gain money illegally, destroy our young people and enhance the strength of their group."
In January, the US Department of Justice assigned a team of prosecutors to form a Hezbollah financing and narco-terrorism team, and last month's Congress bill accused the movement of “using a global network of companies operating out of Latin America, West Africa, and Lebanon to launder as much as $200,000,000 a month in drug proceeds for Mexican and Colombian cartels".
Michelle Spahn, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Country Attaché in Dubai, said that drugs are commonly used to fund and even fight wars in the Middle East and Africa.
“Tramadol has been used as form of tip or currency in Egypt – and this type of drug is preferred as a source of payment. Prices of tramadol increased in Egypt due to the increasing demand," she told the Hemaya event.
On the ground, she said that “terrorist groups use Captagon to stay awake and tramadol to calm their nerves before missions."
The event in Dubai on Monday was told of the concern that drug suppliers are managing to manufacture or find strong prescription drugs and sell them to addicts before governments can ban them.
The trend is most evident in the alarming opiate epidemic that has swept North America in recent years.
Almost 64,000 people in the US died from drugs in 2016, up from 52,000 in 2015.
Andrew Cunningham, head of crime reduction at European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, said: “Recently, we have heard about drones being used to supply drugs across borders and into prisons and using technology to distribute drugs.
“Profit is driving the drug trade. A total of €24 billion (Dh109bn) is the estimated minimum retail value of the illicit market for the main drugs in Europe.
“Criminals try to come up with new chemicals which are not controlled, so called 'black swans',” he said.
In other developments, Lt Gen Khalfan went on to criticise courts in the UAE that he claimed allow drug 'suppliers' and 'traffickers' to get away with sentences usually given for possession or personal use.
“The current law needs to be modified and stringent penalties must be handed over to those involved in smuggling and dealing with drugs," he said.
“In one court case, a man was sentenced to three years in jail for possessing three million Captagon pills – is it possible that this person possessed this amount of drugs for personal use?” he said.
“Sentences should not be reduced, and those convicted must not be released on national or religious occasions.”