Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 August 2020

Italy seizes €1 billion shipment of ISIS-made drugs from Syria

Italian police describe the 14-tonne haul as the world’s largest seizure of amphetamines

Authorities in Italy seized a huge shipment of pills, made by ISIS in Syria, worth €1 billion(Dh4.1bn). Police described it as the biggest seizure of amphetamines in the world.

The 84 million tablets of fenethylline, commonly known as Captagon, a drug long associated with the terrorist group, was discovered by police in the port of Solerno, south of Naples. Italian police said drug production and smuggling formed an essential part of ISIS funding.

“We know that ISIS finances its terrorist activities mainly by trafficking drugs made in Syria, which in the past few years has become the world’s largest producer of amphetamines,” the police said.

A video shared by the Guardia di Finanza, which falls under the remit of Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, showed agents cutting into the industrial cylinders where the drugs were hidden. The 14-tonne haul was hidden in three containers.

Previous drug busts in Europe uncovered an intricate web linking drug smugglers, organised crime and extremism, which spans the globe.

According to the Italian press, investigators with the Naples Public Prosecutor are already looking to a “consortium” of criminal groups that may have been involved with the shipment.

The newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano reported that the size of the haul pointed to the involvement of the Camorra organised crime syndicate, which operates a vast criminal enterprise in Naples and surrounding Campania.

Following the discovery of more than 24 million pills of the powerful opiate tramadol in Italy’s largest container port in Gioia Tauro in 2017, magistrates unveiled long-standing connections between ISIS and the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

The Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta groups have collaborated on smuggling for decades.

Captagon and tramadol, both of which have a history of popularity in Middle East, have been used by ISIS fighters to reduce fear and sold to finance terrorist activities. Captagon creates euphoria and suppresses tiredness.

The psychostimulant, which ISIS produced in clandestine laboratories in Syria, has been used as a battlefield intoxicant by affiliated groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria. Captagon was found in the bodies of the Paris attackers who killed 130 people in the French capital in 2015.

Tramadol, smuggled from India, has been intercepted on its way to Libya and is believed to be used by fighters.

One year ago Greek authorities seized 60 pallets filled with Captagon pills in Piraeus following a tip off from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to the Greek press, documents seized by narcotics agents showed the cargo had been loaded in the Syrian port of Latakia. It was purportedly headed for China though the actual destination was believed to be different.

Captagon was first developed in the 1960s as a possible treatment for hyperactivity and depression but was later banned in most countries because it is addictive.

Updated: July 2, 2020 10:31 AM

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