How Saudi-Greek intelligence sharing delivered a big blow to Hezbollah’s drug operations

How Saudi-Greek intelligence sharing delivered a big blow to Hezbollah’s drug operations
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The commercial port of Piraeus, Greece, where assistance from the Saudi drug enforcement agency has led to a major narcotics bust. (Shutterstock)
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The commercial port of Piraeus, Greece, where assistance from the Saudi drug enforcement agency has led to a major narcotics bust. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 03 May 2021

How Saudi-Greek intelligence sharing delivered a big blow to Hezbollah’s drug operations

How Saudi-Greek intelligence sharing delivered a big blow to Hezbollah’s drug operations
  • Discovery of processed cannabis at main port of Piraeus viewed as fruit of expanding bilateral cooperation
  • Help provided by Saudi Arabia demonstrates the potential in intelligence exchange for common purposes

ATHENS: The assistance recently provided to Greek authorities by the drug-enforcement agency of Saudi Arabia (GNDC/SA), which led to the discovery of a huge shipment of processed cannabis at Greece’s main port of Piraeus, marks a new chapter in expanding bilateral cooperation between Athens and Riyadh.

The two countries have shown willingness to boost their defense ties, but this specific case shows that cooperation on intelligence issues can be critical.

“The help provided by Saudi Arabia to Greek authorities in seizing tons of cannabis exhibits the potential in exchanging intelligence information for common purposes,” George Tzogopoulos, senior fellow at the Institute of European and International Studies and research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Arab News.

The SDOE, Greece’s financial crimes squad, said the drugs were uncovered following a tip-off from the US Drug Enforcement Agency. The shipping container, whose registered contents were three industrial cupcake-making machines, arrived by sea from Lebanon on April 14.




Cooperation between Saudi and Greek anti-narcotics units have resulted in the busting of massive amounts of drugs smuggle from Lebanon. (SPA photo)

It has been scheduled for departure by rail to Bratislava, Slovakia a few days later, passing through North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.

Greek authorities raided the container on April 16 and uncovered 4.3 tons of processed cannabis hidden inside a compartment built into a metal tank among the machinery.

According to some estimates, the seized narcotics had a potential street value of €33 million (almost $39.6 million).




Lebanese anti-narcotics police destroy cannabis plants in the village of Bouday, at the eastern Bekaa Valley near the ancient city of Baalbek. (AP)

This is not the first time Greek and Saudi authorities have worked together to seize large quantities of drugs transported out of Lebanon.

In January 2020, the Greek financial crimes squad worked with GNDC/SA to uncover almost 1.3 tons of processed cannabis hidden in a container at Piraeus destined for Misrata, Libya.

“Greece traditionally enjoys warm relations with Arab countries,” said Tzogopoulos.




Drug smugglers keep changing their tactics to stay ahead of anti-narcotics teams around ther world. (SPA photo)

He added: “In this respect, ties with Gulf countries and with Saudi Arabia have been strengthened and they recently reached new heights with the visit of Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos to Riyadh. The nature of the developing collaboration allows the two countries to embark on various projects of common interest.”

Intelligence cooperation comes as a natural continuation of blossoming defense ties. In March, six F-15 fighter jets of the Royal Saudi Air Force, their crews and supporting technicians arrived on the Greek island of Crete to take part in a major joint air drill, Falcon Eye 1, over the Mediterranean.

During their recent visit to Riyadh, Dendias and Panagiotopoulos announced the deployment of a Patriot-2 air defense missile system (accompanied by 130 personnel) to help defend Saudi Arabia’s energy infrastructure, repeatedly targeted in ballistic missile and drone attacks carried out by the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia in Yemen.


Tensions mount on Gaza border with Israel

Tensions mount on Gaza border with Israel
Updated 1 min 29 sec ago

Tensions mount on Gaza border with Israel

Tensions mount on Gaza border with Israel
  • A number of rockets fired from Gaza toward Israeli towns on Sunday evening and Monday morning were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system
  • The Israeli army responded to the attacks by bombing sites belonging to Palestinian factions in Gaza

GAZA CITY: Tensions on the Gaza Strip border with Israel on Monday continued to mount following recent violent confrontations at Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

A number of rockets fired from Gaza toward Israeli towns on Sunday evening and Monday morning were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and no injuries were reported. Incendiary balloons were also launched toward Israel.

The Israeli army responded to the attacks by bombing sites belonging to Palestinian factions in Gaza.

Night demonstrations also resumed along the border in support of several Palestinian families threatened with eviction from their homes in Jerusalem and as part of the so-called March of Return protests that have gone on for two years.

Mohammed Deif, commander-in-chief of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas in Gaza, recently warned that the resistance would “not stand idly by” and that Israel would “pay a dear price” if it continued with its actions against Palestinians.

He said the brigades’ leadership was “watching what is happening (in Sheikh Jarrah) closely” while saluting “our steadfast people in occupied Jerusalem.”

Deif has been on Israel’s wanted list for more than two decades and has been accused of being behind numerous military operations against the country. He has survived several assassination attempts, the most recent being during the 2014 Gaza war.

Jerusalem has recently witnessed violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protestors over eviction plans to give Palestinian homes in the city suburb to Jewish settlers.

In East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, Palestinians feel an increasing threat from settlers who have sought to expand the Jewish presence there by buying properties, constructing new buildings, and through court-ordered evictions.

Meanwhile, Israel has suspended Palestinian fishing rights off Gaza over the incendiary balloon attacks which it blamed on Hamas.

A statement on Sunday issued by the coordinator of the Israeli government’s activities in the Palestinian Territories, said: “It has been decided to close the fishing distance in the Gaza Strip, and the decision will take effect immediately, and will continue until further notice.”

On Monday, the Israelis also announced the complete closure of the Erez border crossing. Israeli Army Radio said: “Hamas in Gaza is making an extensive effort to ignite the situation. On the other hand, we are ready on all fronts. I advise them not to give us a try.”

Speaking at a recent Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I tell the terrorist organizations that Israel will respond forcefully to any rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.”

Mustafa Ibrahim, a columnist, told Arab News that the current escalation in tensions was calculated both by Hamas and Israel.

He said: “At this stage, it seems that Hamas is well aware that the conditions are not conducive to escalating toward a military confrontation with Gaza. Therefore, the rockets fired from Gaza have a short range ... and also the current Israeli response to them does not indicate that it wants to expand the confrontation.

“The somewhat positive reactions from the international community toward Jerusalem seem to have curbed the harsh reaction by the Palestinian factions in Gaza.

“Any developments in Jerusalem and the West Bank may always push Gaza into a military confrontation that may be limited and may be wide. But it seems that we have not reached a broad confrontation this time,” he added.


UN says 5 migrants downed; over 700 intercepted off Libya

UN says 5 migrants downed; over 700 intercepted off Libya
Updated 10 May 2021

UN says 5 migrants downed; over 700 intercepted off Libya

UN says 5 migrants downed; over 700 intercepted off Libya

CAIRO: At least five people, including a woman and a child, drowned when a boat carrying at least 45 Europe-bound migrants capsized off Libya, a UN migration official said on Monday. The wreck was the latest disaster in the Mediterranean Sea involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, said the wreck took place on Sunday. She said fishermen rescued 40 migrants and returned them to the shore.
Msehli said the boat was among nine others carrying more than 700 migrants intercepted Sunday by the Libyan coast guard off the coast of the North African country.
The intercepted migrants were taken to overcrowded detention centers, where the UN migration agency fears more threats to their lives and violations of their rights, she said.
There has been a spike in crossings and attempted crossings from Libya in recent weeks, with smugglers taking advantage of the calm sea and warm weather.
Federico Soda, head of IOM in Libya, said he was “extremely concerned” about the spike in migrant departure from Libya and “the continuous loss of life.”
“The situation cannot be ignored, and states must live up to their responsibilities and redeploy search and rescue vessels,” he tweeted.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Earlier this month, at least 11 Europe-bound migrants drowned when a rubber dinghy carrying two dozen people capsized off Libya. That followed another tragedy in April where at least 130 migrants were presumed dead, in one of the deadliest maritime tragedies in years along the busy route.
Around 7,000 Europe-bound migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya so far this year, according to the IOM’s tally.
Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. Over the last several years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Europe either on their own or after being rescued at sea.
Thousands have drowned along the way. Others were intercepted and returned to Libya to be left at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water, according to rights groups.


UAE to bar travel from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka from Wednesday

UAE to bar travel from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka from Wednesday
Updated 10 May 2021

UAE to bar travel from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka from Wednesday

UAE to bar travel from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka from Wednesday
  • Part of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will bar entry for travelers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka starting Wednesday, as part of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said on its website on Monday.

“Flights between the four countries will continue to allow the transport of passengers from the UAE to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka,” it said.

The UAE announced last month a ban on entry from India to guard against the spread of the highly contagious Indian variant of the coronavirus.


Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives

Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives
Updated 10 May 2021

Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives

Dubai Police arrest one of UK’s most-wanted fugitives
  • Michael Paul Moogan has avoided apprehension by using false identities

DUBAI: Dubai Police have arrested one of the UK’s most wanted fugitives after eight years on the run, after Interpol issued a Red Notice.

Michael Paul Moogan, 35, from Liverpool in the UK, had been on the National Crime Agency-UK wanted list for his alleged role in a large-scale international drug trafficking plot to import drugs from Latin America to Europe, state news agency WAM reported.

Moogan had evaded arrest by using false identities after escaping a police raid on a café in the Netherlands, believed to be a front for a drug cartel.

It is claimed that Café de Ketel in Rotterdam, Netherlands was being used for meetings between drug traffickers and cartels and was central to a plot to bring hundreds of kilos of cocaine into the UK every week, WAM reported.

British officials described the café as “a business not open to the public that could only be entered via a security system,” a separate report from British broadcaster the BBC noted.

Moogan will be flown back to the UK where he is due to face trial, the broadcaster added.

UK anti-crime officials have praised the cooperation between Dubai Police and Interpol, which resulted to Moogan’s arrest.

“We are extremely grateful to those partners for their assistance in ensuring Moogan now faces justice and particularly thank the Dubai Police for their efforts to track him down. His extradition from the UAE is being requested,” Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigation said.

Dubai Police managed to identify the suspect although he had used a different name and nationality to enter the country and was immediately placed under surveillance prior to his arrest.

Police authorities have earlier worked on the extradition of 52 internationally-wanted people involved in serious crimes such as terrorism, organized crime, money laundering, murder and drugs.


Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field

Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field
Updated 10 May 2021

Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field

Kuwait Oil reports ‘limited fire’ at Burgan field
  • Production was not impacted

DUBAI: A “limited fire” broke out on Monday at the Kuwait Oil Co’s Greater Burgan field, injuring two workers but with no impact on production, the state news agency KUNA reported, citing a company statement.
The fire was quickly brought under control, it said.
Greater Burgan is Kuwait’s biggest and one of the world’s largest producing fields, according to Wood Mackenzie.