Italian authorities stunned the world by announcing the “Islamic State” was trying to ship €1 billion worth of amphetamines into Europe. But after analysts raised doubts, eyes turn to President Bashar Assad’s regime, while according to some analysts, this drug is being smuggled to various Western and Middle Eastern nations – especially Saudi Arabia by an organized racket controlled by Iran.
A video from the Guardia di Finanza, a financial crime and smuggling investigations unit attached to the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Italy, shows officers using circular saws to cut their way into industrial paper cylinders shipped from Syria. Thousands of tablets, identified by police as captagon or amphetamine, come streaming out of the holes, filling dozens of large containers. Officials say in total they seized 84 million tablets weighing 14 tons (12,700 kg) — almost enough to supply the whole of Europe, according to the police. Their estimated worth is €1 billion ($1.13 billion).
Italian authorities claimed, the consignment of drugs was shipped from Syria by Islamic State (ISIS). According to the Guardia di Finanza, the amphetamine tablets all bear “the symbol of the ‘captagon,’ which distinguishes the ‘Jihad drug’ made by ISIS.” The drug got its nickname after ISIS militants admitted to taking it to stay awake and not feel fear or pain during battle.
The statement continues, “It is known, in fact, that IS/Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS] finances its own terrorist activities especially by means of drug-trafficking — the synthetic ones massively produced in Syria — which has become for this reason in recent years the first world producer of amphetamines.”
But experts on terror groups and Syria immediately raised their doubts. ISIS has lost almost all its territory since its high point in 2014, its forces are diminished. Charles Lister, director of the Middle East Institute’s Syria program, tweeted that ” This story doesn’t add up… at all. There’s no way #ISIS has the capacity to produce narcotics, especially at this scale. Beyond hard to fathom. FWIW, #Assad-held territories have been huge manufacturers of captagon – exporting region-wide.”
Another stumbling block for the Guardia di Finanza’s claim was the port from which they said the captagon had been shipped. Latakia, a harbor city on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, has remained a safe distance from IS’ clutches. It always has been in the hands of President Assad.
Captagon market in the Middle East
For the past few years, Captagon, which is also known as amphetamine is being sold in very large volumes in the Middle Eastern nations, mostly by organized drug trafficking rackets controlled by Islamic State, Hezbollah and Hamas. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes – in the last few years the main production cities were definitely in Lebanon and Syria.
According to counterterrorism experts, jihadist groups such as Islamic State, Hezbollah, and Hamas have chosen captagon as one of the most profitable jihadist crops, which brings hundreds of millions of dollars every month, while it also substantially damages the western and targeted Middle Eastern nations. In addition to captagon, these jihadist groups are also selling various types of custom-made ecstasy drugs to Arab nations. Iran has been giving special importance to the selling of captagon/amphetamine as well as various types of ecstasy drugs to the Middle Eastern nations, especially the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as part of Shi’ite jihad.