Saudi Arabia seizes mountain of drugs as smugglers ship 47 million pills into Riyadh

Raid comes days after ambassador to Lebanon said authorities had stopped 700 million illegal pills entering the kingdom since 2015

The General Directorate of Narcotics Control (GDNC) seized 47 million amphetamine pills in Riyadh. Photo: @Mokafha_SA / Twitter
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Police in Saudi Arabia arrested eight people and seized nearly 47 million amphetamine pills in a major drug raid in Riyadh, authorities announced on Wednesday.

Officers from the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, or Mokafha, arrested six Syrian and two Pakistani citizens, who are all residents of the kingdom, on suspicion of smuggling the drugs in sacks of flour.

A police picture of piles of confiscated drugs and the backs of those suspected of smuggling them. Photo: @Mokafha_SA / Twitter

The narcotics control force said officers had tracked the shipment across the country to a warehouse at Riyadh Dry Port, where they carried out the raid and made the arrests.

The force shared images and videos showing the piles of drugs, as well as the backs of the suspects after the raid.

Mokafha said this month it had also foiled an attempt to smuggle 2.25 million amphetamine tablets through a port in Jeddah.

The drugs were hidden in floor mops, it said.

Saudi Arabia is one of the region's key destinations for synthetic drugs. This week, the kingdom’s ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari said authorities had stopped 700 million pills and hundreds of kilos of hashish smuggled from or through Lebanon alone since 2015.

Last year, the kingdom even temporarily halted all trade with Lebanon after massive amounts of narcotics coming from the country were found in shipments of fruits and vegetables.

The most common amphetamines being smuggled are known as Captagon, a synthetic drug that is cheap to produce but is often laced with unknown chemicals.

The narcotic has been long associated with the Syrian war, where labs have sprung up in the absence of law and order. The drug industry is believed to be a hidden source of income to warring sides in the country.

Captagon has become popular among younger age groups, including students, some of whom have used the drug in attempts to enhance academic performance, as well as for leisure, despite the health risks.

Updated: August 31, 2022, 3:18 PM