More than $1.5 million in gold and cash found in Beirut airport car park

Airport authorities regularly report attempts to smuggle in large amounts of currency and drugs

Nearly 15 kilos of gold and a large amonut of euros and dollars were found at Beirut's international airport on June 7, 2019. AFP
Nearly 15 kilos of gold and a large amonut of euros and dollars were found at Beirut's international airport on June 7, 2019. AFP

A bag containing more than $1.5 million (Dh5.5m) worth of gold and cash was found in the car park at Beirut's international airport on Sunday and handed over to the police.

The bag was discovered by a Lebanese citizen at dawn, the state-run National News Agency reported without identifying the finder.

In the bag, the airport police found 14.95 kgs of gold worth about $675,000 at current rates, along with €632,000 ($709,000) and $170,000 in cash, NNA said.

The bag’s owner, a Lebanese citizen who had flown in from Togo via Ethiopia on an Ethiopian Airlines flight, was arrested. The man, identified only by his initials, A K, had declared the gold at Customs but not the cash, NNA reported.

The report did not specify what the legal limits are for passengers carrying gold and Lebanese Customs did not respond to a request for comment. In April 2017, a security source told Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star that it is illegal to travel with more than 200 grams of gold. At the time, customs officers had seized 90kg of gold that was being smuggled into Beirut from Dubai.

Beirut airport authorities regularly report attempts to smuggle through large quantities of contraband.

In December 2017, an 80-year old Venezuelan woman made international headlines when she was arrested at the airport with 31kg of cocaine inside her bag.

Speaking after the discovery of $1m worth of cocaine concealed on the bodies of two Turkish passengers in late January, Director General of Lebanese Customs Badri Daher said that drugs smuggled through the airport were probably used to finance terrorism.

Mr Daher said the airport did not have sufficient equipment to scan passengers and bags for drugs and had to rely on random physical inspections. He said 26.7kg of cocaine, 5.4 million captagon pills and four tonnes of hashish were seized at Beirut airport in 2018.

Beirut's airport is notoriously mismanaged. Three agencies are responsible for enforcing security measures, which leads to confusion and competition between them. The director of airport security has no authority to discipline airport police or customs officials, the Lebanese daily L’Orient-Le Jour reported in December last year.

In September last year, Fox News reported that the airport was used by Iran to deliver weapons to Hezbollah, Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed political party, quoting western intelligence sources who identified unusual flight patterns by an Iranian civilian airline that are used to avoid detection.

Lebanon’s aviation authorities denied the accusations.

Updated: July 8, 2019 04:55 PM


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