The Italian police have seized 14 tons of amphetamine from a port in the southern part of the country. The consignment seized on Wednesday is believed to have been produced by terror group ISIS in Syria. The drugs were likely for distribution across European countries and the money would have been used to fund terrorist activities across the world. Police also believe it to be the biggest drug haul ever on record.
Production and distribution of synthetic drugs have drastically dropped in Europe and the United States due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, which has seen many traffickers operating from Syria where it didn't slow down. Syria is also the largest producer of amphetamine, which is banned in most parts of the world.
Biggest Catch Ever
On Wednesday, Italy's police tracked three suspected containers to the port of Salerno in southwest Italy and found 14 tons of amphetamines worth $1.2 billion in the form of 84 million Captagon tablets. The pills were hidden inside large paper drums and gear wheels. Captagon is a brand name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline, which is originally manufactured to treat narcolepsy and depression that is popular in the Middle East.
The tablets carried a specific logo that distinguishes it as "drug of Jihad" and police say they believe them to be produced in Syria by ISIS and distribution in Europe to fund terrorist activities. Guardia di Finanza, the financial police of Italy, also said that the haul was the largest ever in the world both in terms of value and quantity.
"We weren't able to see them but we knew it was arriving because of our ongoing investigations we have with the Camorra (Organized crime group operating in Italy)," Commander Domenico Napolitano, head of the financial police in Naples, said. The Camorra smuggles drugs into Italy and then takes a cut for helping in the distribution process across Europe.
Terrorism Aided by Drug Trafficking
The Islamic State widely uses money from smuggled drug to fund its terrorist activities. Counterfeit Captagon is also one of the most popular drugs among affluent youths in the Middle East, particularly in Gulf countries. Captagon, which is a brand name for fenethylline hydrochloride, is believed to give bursts of energy to people who use it. It is originally manufactured to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy but many countries banned it during the 1980s because of its addictive properties.
Naples police said: "It is known that ISIS/Daesh finances its terrorist activities in large part with the trafficking of synthetic drugs produced largely in Syria, which has become the leading world producer of amphetamines in recent years." In fact, even ISIS militants themselves are believed to consume it to "inhibit fear and pain" and Captagon is now more popular as "Jihad Drug", according to the police statement.
The haul comes within two weeks of seizure of one million Captagon tablets and 2,800 kilos of hashish hidden in containers sent from Syria to the same port of Salerno. However, the amount seized this time is believed to be sufficient for supply across the entire European market.