Lebanon intercepts 250,000 Captagon pills hidden in water pumps bound for Saudi Arabia

The kingdom had banned produce imports from Lebanon over concerns of increased smuggling

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the production and smuggling of Captagon has flourished on both sides of the Lebanese-Syrian border. AFP
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Lebanese authorities have thwarted the shipment of 250,000 Captagon pills to Saudi Arabia.

The consignment of the amphetamine-type drug was discovered hidden inside small water pumps.

Lebanon's Internal Security Forces said on Tuesday that they had arrested three men in connection with the alleged attempt to smuggle attempt of 37 kilograms of Captagon on June 1.

Those arrested are a man without identification documents, a Syrian national and a Lebanese man.

“They admitted to forming a drug smuggling network headed by the first detainee," an ISF statement said.

"He instructed the others to go to Tripoli [in northern Lebanon] where they received a shipment of electric water pumps, smuggled from Syria, which contained Captagon pills.”

The drug bust follows promises by top Lebanese officials that they would crack down on the drug trade, after Saudi Arabian authorities found millions of pills stashed inside pomegranate shipments from Beirut in April.

Riyadh banned all produce imports from Lebanon until local authorities could provide "adequate and reliable guarantees" that they were able tofight drug smuggling.

Lebanese farmers said they feared the ban would compound a severe economic crisis in the country – which has led to recent shortages of fuel and medicines.

Two brothers were arrested in connection with the drug-stuffed pomegranate shipment in May, caretaker interior minister Mohamed Fehmi said.

Lebanese authorities routinely confiscate Captagon pills and close down factories producing the drug in the Bekaa valley, a Hezbollah-controlled region bordering Syria.

Since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, the production and smuggling of Captagon has flourished on both sides of the border.

Last July, the Italian police seized 84 million pills worth $1.1 billion.

The record haul was first thought to have belonged to ISIS, but authorities later found they came from the Syrian port of Latakia.