Beirut airport arrests Lebanese man carrying 11kg of cocaine after drug crackdown pledge

The incident comes after five million Captagon pills were found in a shipment of pomegranates that arrived in Saudi Arabia from Lebanon

A police officer leads a sniffer dog trained to detect COVID-19 through sweat samples at Lebanon's Rafiq Hariri International Airport in Beirut on March 1, 2021. Specifically trained sniffer dogs can detect COVID-19 in a person in a few seconds, including in very early stages when a PCR test would yield a negative result.Each dog can process hundreds of samples every day, the only wages they need are biscuits or rubber toys and they deliver results on the spot. / AFP / JOSEPH EID
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Security officials at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport arrested a Lebanese national carrying 11 kilograms of cocaine on Tuesday, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported.

The dual Lebanese-Brazilian national, referred to as A.S by officials, travelled on a Qatar Airways flight from Brazil to Beirut, where he was apprehended and transferred to the relevant authorities.

The incident came just a day after Lebanon's President Michel Aoun asked Lebanese ministers and security agencies to crack down harder on all forms of smuggling, sparked by Saudi Arabia's decision to ban imports of fruit and vegetable from Lebanon.

On Sunday, Saudi authorities seized more than five million Captagon pills and over two million amphetamine pills hidden in a shipment of pomegranates that arrived in Jeddah from Lebanon.

Saudi has seized more than 600 million pills and hundreds of kilograms of hashish in the last six years, Riyadh’s ambassador to Beirut, Walid Al Bukhari, said.

Gulf states, including the UAE, have issued statements in support of the Saudi ban, which came as a shock to Lebanon’s fruit and vegetable sector. The Gulf is its most important market.

The union of fruit and vegetables producers described Saudi Arabia’s seizure of the illegal stimulants as a “dangerous precedent” that “affects the security and stability of both the Kingdom and of Lebanese society.”

The union said it would follow up on the matter with local security services to “uncover the perpetrators in order to prosecute them before Lebanese and Arab public opinion.”

Lebanese farmers told local media that the pills seized by Saudi officials on Sunday originated in Syria, not Lebanon.

Syria has witnessed a boom in the production of Captagon since the start of its civil war in 2011, with neighbouring Lebanon serving as a channel to the global market.

On Saturday, the Lebanese army said it had raided a Captagon manufacturing facility in Baalbek, north-east of the capital Beirut.

Arrests of alleged drug smugglers at Beirut’s airport regularly make headlines.

In May 2019, local media reported that airport security services arrested a Saudi national carrying around 10 kilograms of Captagon.