Italy seizes Daesh-made drugs worth $1.1 billion

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Italian police said Wednesday they had seized a 14-ton haul of amphetamines made by the Daesh terrorist group in Syria, calling it the biggest seizure of such drugs in the world.

The drug, in the form of around 84 million Captagon tablets hidden inside industrial goods within containers, was worth about 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) and intended to be sold on the European market “to finance terrorism,” the finance police of Naples said in a statement.

“We know that the Islamic State (Daesh) 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,” the statement said.

Police said three suspect containers had arrived at the port of Salerno, just south of Naples, containing large cylindrical paper rolls for industrial use as well as industrial machinery.

Cutting open the paper rolls and metal gearwheels with chainsaws, police found them filled with tablets. Video images taken by police showed pills spilling out of the rolls and wheels as they were forced opened.

“This is the largest seizure of amphetamines in the world,” police said.

Captagon, a brand name, was originally for medical use, but illegal versions have been widely used by Daesh fighters in combat, the police said.

Citing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Naples police said Daesh “makes extensive use of it in all territories over which it exerts influence and where it controls the drug trade”.

The amount of drugs seized was sufficient to satisfy the entire European market, police said, without providing a time frame.

A “consortium” of criminal groups were likely involved for the distribution of the drugs, including possibly many clans within the infamous Camorra of Naples, police said.

“The hypothesis is that during the lockdown … production and distribution of synthetic drugs in Europe have practically stopped,” the statement said.

“Many smugglers, even in consortiums, have turned to Syria where production, however, does not seem to have slowed down.”