Lebanon seizes Captagon hidden in tea heading for Saudi Arabia

More than 25 million pills have been seized in the Middle East since the start of the year

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Read more about the Middle East's Captagon crisis.

Lebanon has seized a large quantity of Captagon pills hidden in a tea shipment bound for Saudi Arabia, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said on Tuesday.

The shipment was destined for Saudi Arabia, which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says is the world's biggest consumer of Captagon, a stimulant derived from a banned fenethylline-based drug.

Mr Mawlawi told Lebanese TV the pills, hidden inside more than 450 crates of tea, were seized on their way by sea to Togo. He said the shipment would then have been sent to Saudi Arabia

The Middle East is facing a Captagon crisis after production, trafficking and consumption of the drug skyrocketed in the past decade, with the small, off-white pills rising to become the region’s most popular drug.

“Painstaking police work led to the seizure of a Captagon shipment, which was headed to Togo in Africa,” Mr Mawlawi said at a press conference. Lebanese security forces said that the shipment would then be sent from the African country to Saudi Arabia.

The amphetamine pills, probably manufactured in Lebanon or Syria, were concealed in a seven-tonne shipment of tea at Beirut port, Mr Mawlawi said.

Saudi Arabia applied devastating trade restrictions on Beirut last year after the seizure of a huge shipment originating from Lebanon, containing Captagon concealed in pomegranates.

Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic crisis and is aiming to mend ties with the kingdom and other Gulf countries.

In another major seizure at Beirut port last month, about nine million Captagon pills were found hidden in fake oranges.

More than 25 million pills of Captagon have been seized across the region since the start of the year alone, according to AFP.

Middle East's Captagon crisis - in pictures

Updated: January 26, 2022, 9:23 AM