Lebanon seizes 142 kg of illicit drugs in major bust with help from Saudi authorities

Lebanon’s police said Saturday it has seized more than 800,000 pills of the amphetamine-type stimulant captagon worth around $12 million in a bust coordinated with Saudi authorities. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2019
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Lebanon seizes 142 kg of illicit drugs in major bust with help from Saudi authorities

  • Captagon is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an “amphetamine-type stimulant” and usually blends amphetamines, caffeine and other substances
  • The drug is commonly used in the Syrian war, where fighters say it helps them stay awake for days and numbs their senses

BEIRUT:  Police in Lebanon have seized more than 800,000 pills of the stimulant Captagon worth about $12 million in an operation coordinated with Saudi authorities.

Police stopped a refrigerated truck containing 142 kilograms of the illicit drug on April 9, Lebanese authorities revealed on Saturday.

The operation followed a tip-off from Saudi Arabia’s Directorate of Narcotics Control that drug smugglers planned to transport a large shipment of Captagon to an unidentified Arab country by land, they said.

The truck was seized near the town of Chtaura in the Bekaa Valley, and a 32-year-old Syrian national was arrested, a security source told Arab News. The drug was professionally hidden and would not have been found by a scanner, the source said.

Captagon is commonly used in the Syrian war, where fighters say it helps them stay awake for days and numbs their senses.

The drug is classified by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as an “amphetamine-type stimulant” and usually blends amphetamines, caffeine and other substances.

Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are usually assumed to be transit or production territories for illicit Captagon, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

A source said there had been an escalation in the smuggling of Captagon in Lebanon.  “Captagon factories do not need large areas and the security forces in Lebanon have seized many Captagon factories on their territory.”

Gangs also used different smuggling methods. “There was an attempt last week to smuggle Captagon pills inside furniture, and before that inside motorbikes and trucks.”

Cooperation with Saudi security services was “continuous and distinctive and always has positive results,” the source said.


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”