LONDON: The world’s largest seizure of a drug linked to Daesh militants may have been produced and shipped by pro-regime Syrian businessman.
The 14 tons of Captagon pills were uncovered inside a ship in the port of Salerno in southern Italy last week.
The pills, an amphetamine used by extremists fighting in Syria, were worth an estimated 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion).
Italian police said the pills were made by Daesh and were being sold to fund the extremist group’s terror operations.
A report in the UK newspaper The Sunday Times, however, said the drugs were produced and shipped by members of Syria’s business elite linked to president Bashar Assad.
The tanker arrived in Italy from the Syrian port of Latakia with a cargo of paper cylinders for industrial use. The 84 million pills were hidden inside the 1.8 meter long rolls.
A Syrian businessman with knowledge of the paper industry said the rolls were produced in a new factory in Aleppo owned by a businessman connected to the Assad regime.
“They said it was Isis (Daesh). It’s so funny because logistically they can’t have access to the port and they can’t have the machines that put the drugs inside the paper rolls,” the businessman said.
“It’s impossible: when I saw the photos it is impossible that you could do such a thing without having machines for paper manufacture.”
German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the pills were manufactured in a village south of Latakia, an Assad stronghold.
It is not clear for what market the pills were intended. Italian police suggested they could be headed for European cities coming out of lockdown but experts said north Africa or the Gulf were more likely destinations.
On Saturday, Saudi Border Guards said they had thwarted an attempt to smuggle 360,000 Captagon pills into the Kingdom from Jordan.