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

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Authorities in Italy have seized a giant shipment of €1 billion (Dh4.1bn) worth of pills made by ISIS in Syria, described by police 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 terror group, was discovered by police in the port of Solerno south of Naples.

In a statement, Italian police said drug smuggling and production formed an essential part of ISIS funding.

"We know that the Islamic State 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," it read.

A video shared by the Guardia di Finanza, which falls under the remit of Italy’s ministry of economy and finance, has shown agents cutting into the large hollow industrial cylinders where the drugs were hidden.

Three containers containing the 14-tonne haul of drugs were discovered in the southern Italian port.

Previous drug busts in Europe have uncovered the complicated nexus of ties between drug smugglers, organised crime and Islamist 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.

Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper reported that the massive 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 illicit smuggling activities for decades.

The record seizure of amphetamines, in the form of 84 million Captagon tablets produced in Syria by ISIS, hidden in three containers found in the port of Salerno, just south of Naples AFP

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 terror activities. Captagon, which creates euphoria and suppresses tiredness, has been labelled by Italian police as the “jihadi drug”.

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 1, 2020 05:24 PM

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