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UAE busts 4.5 million Captagon pills in food cans after smuggler arrest 

Amphetamine fenethylline, known by its brand name Captagon, has increasingly become the drug of choice among youth in Gulf Arab states.
Officers of the Directorate of Narcotics Control of the Interior Ministry sort through tablets of Captagon seized during a special operation and presented before AFP afterward, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 1, 2022.

DUBAI — Abu Dhabi police announced on Tuesday the arrest of a smuggler attempting to move 4.5 million tablets of the drug Captagon hidden in food cans to a neighboring country.

The arrest was made after a successful sting operation to monitor the suspect’s movements. It followed a tip that someone was attempting to bring the Captagon pills into the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an intermediary destination before sending the drugs to a different country, according to a Facebook post by Abu Dhabi police authorities.

The details of when and where the arrest took place, or the value of the pills found, were not specified. The statement made by the UAE capital authorities praised the coordination and cooperation of the anti-drug team in the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain. 

The Captagon trade is a fast-growing illicit economy with an increasing number of arrests such as these prevailing in the Middle East.

Earlier in February, Dubai authorities halted three criminal operations selling 111 kilograms (245 pounds) of Captagon with an estimated value of $8.71 million, according to Dubai police.

In December, Jordan seized 1 ton, or 6 million pills, of Captagon being smuggled in date paste found inside two refrigerator trucks at its Iraq border, reported the BBC.

Before that, Saudi Arabia found 46 million amphetamine pills hidden in a flour shipment in what was believed to be the kingdom’s biggest drug bust at the time, according to the country’s government news agency Saudi Press Agency.

Amphetamine fenethylline, known by its brand name Captagon, has increasingly become the drug of choice among youth in Gulf Arab states, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, according to the Arab Center.

The institution says that reports of large-scale drug seizures are common but have done little to weaken the multibillion-dollar illegal industry.

This is due to most government authorities pursuing the supply side of the issue without much attention given to understanding the demand.

The report stated that disaffected young people facing high unemployment and few outlets to relieve their frustrations have gravitated toward the drug as a coping tool, which has been described as giving a euphoric yet temporary feeling of well-being.

Despite the Syrian government enacting occasional crackdowns on Captagon, it appears to be the chief manufacturer of the drug along its border with Lebanon, reports the research organization.

The pills are then usually smuggled by land to Jordan, from where it is believed to reach Gulf states.

The drug first gained notoriety in the mid-2010s for its use and trade by Islamic State fighters, according to the New Lines Institute in Washington.

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