ROME: A source in the Guardia di Finanza, the Italian finance police, in Salerno has told Arab News that 15 tons of Captagon amphetamine seized in July in Naples “came from Syria and could be linked to Lebanese group Hezbollah, even though we are still investigating the case.”
On July 1, the Guardia di Finanza claimed the biggest seizure of amphetamines in the world as they intercepted more than 84 million Captagon tablets — weighing 14 tons and with a value of more than €1 billion ($1.2 billion) — heading from Syria to European markets, where synthetic drug production may have taken an unexpected hit from the COVID-19 lockdown.
Captagon is known by some as the “ISIS drug” after investigations revealed the amphetamine was used by Daesh fighters to keep them on their feet during battles.
The trademark name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline, Captagon, was first produced in the 1960s to treat hyperactivity, narcolepsy and depression, but was banned in most countries by the 1980s as it was deemed too addictive. It remains hugely popular in the Middle East.
The drug is cheap and simple to produce, using ingredients that are easy and often legal to obtain. It sells for roughly €15 a tablet.
When they were seized in Italy, the tablets were hidden in large paper and steel cylinders and transported to the port of Salerno, in southern Italy.
The Guardia di Finanza had told Italian press that the amphetamine pills seized in Salerno had a symbol on them: Two half-moons — the same symbols found on Captagon seized in Daesh hideouts in the Middle East.
The symbol was also found on the tablets the terrorists consumed before the attack on the Bataclan in Paris in 2015.
This led the Italian police to believe that the drugs seized in Salerno may have been produced by men linked to Daesh in order to finance their terroristic efforts.
However, in recent weeks, investigators have been following a new lead which may take them to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“There could be a link, but we are still investigating the case and expect new developments,” a source in the Guardia di Finanza told Arab News.
Investigators have no doubt that the Salerno shipment was to be received by the Neapolitan mafia, known as the Camorra.
“The mob must be behind drug trafficking of such proportions. A €1 billion drug load cannot arrive in a port without the knowledge of the mafia,” Franco Roberti, the Former Italian Anti-Mafia National Chief prosecutor, told Arab News.
The Captagon pills seized in Salerno were burned by the Police last week in a special waste management facility in Ravenna, in northern Italy. The 16 tons of drugs were transported on a convoy escorted by armoured vehicles and helicopters.
The incineration process took a full day under tight security with over 100 policemen guarding the site.