UAE seizes more than $1 billion of Captagon in major drug bust

Six people detained as 13 tonnes of amphetamine intercepted by Dubai Police

A portion of the 86 million pills seized by Dubai Police. Photo: Dubai Police / Ministry of Interior
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The UAE says it has thwarted an attempt to smuggle more than 13 tonnes of Captagon worth Dh3.87 billion ($1.05 billion) in a major operation.

Six people were apprehended by Dubai Police, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said on Thursday.

A criminal gang attempted to smuggle the amphetamines inside about 600 door panels and other items.

Footage released showed police officers monitoring the suspects as part of the operation.

Authorities seized five shipping containers at an undisclosed location, with footage showing officers breaking open wooden panels in which more than 80 million pills were hidden.

Dubai Police said they received information about a suspicious container on board a cargo ship.

Maj Gen Eid Mohammed Thani, director of the Anti-Narcotics Department said an international gang planned to ship the drugs in five containers to the UAE, then transport it to another country.

“The containers [were] loaded with furniture such as doors and decorations panels," he said. "The containers [were] scanned with an X-ray with the help of a K9 unit.

The force identified a first suspect who was placed under surveillance until he came to the port in Dubai to collect three containers.

“He was arrested as he was planning to transfer the containers to an industrial area,” Maj Gen Thani said.

Officers transported the three containers to the industrial area where two other suspects were apprehended.

After that, another two suspects were arrested as they arrived at the port to pick up the last two containers.

“They admitted planning to transport the containers to a warehouse in a neighbouring emirate,” Maj Gen Thani said.

Dubai Police transported the two containers and arrested a sixth suspect as he was unloading the doors and panels alongside paid workers.

Officers spent days dismantling 651 doors and 432 panels using cutters and hydraulic equipment to extract more than 86 million Captagon pills, weighing 13.7 tonnes.

Sheikh Saif praised Dubai Police's efforts in the operation called Storm.

Lt Gen Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, commander-in-chief of Dubai Police, said it was one of the force's largest operations involving Captagon.

UAE authorities did not reveal the nationalities of those arrested or from where the drugs originated.

Deadly trade

Captagon has become increasingly common in the Middle East in the past five years, with pills selling for as little as $3 in some countries.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan recently launched highly publicised campaigns against Captagon smuggling.

Many of the biggest seizures in the Gulf in recent years have been traced to Syria, where criminal gangs have set up huge factories to produce the drug.

In an interview with Sky News Arabia last month, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad admitted corruption in his country had allowed drug smugglers to flourish but denied he or his government were involved in the trade.

US and UK officials have said drug producers are closely linked to the Assad regime.

Video: Captagon crisis - on the front line of UAE's war on drugs

Captagon Crisis: On the front line of UAE's war on drugs

Captagon Crisis: On the front line of UAE's war on drugs
Updated: September 14, 2023, 10:19 AM