Customs officers in Saudi Arabia have disrupted an attempt to smuggle nearly five million Captagon tablets into the country.
Saudi border force officers stopped a vehicle at a checkpoint on the country’s north-western border, discovering 4,839,000 Captagon pills and 349.7 grams of hashish concealed inside.
Commenting on the seizure, Khalid Al-Romaih, Director General of Halat Amar customs, said the drugs were hidden in different parts of the vehicle, and that his officers found pills stashed in door cavities, inside a spare tyre, and woven into the vehicle’s seats.
Al-Romaih said the seizure was an example of the efforts Saudi customs workers are making to prevent drugs and other contraband from entering the country.
Earlier this month, police in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi arrested six men on suspicion of attempting to smuggle 1.8 million Captagon pills into the country hidden inside spare parts for juicing machines.
Police said the gang, which is said to have had bases in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, had planned to sell the drugs inside the country as opposed to trafficking them on to other destinations.
An official said the men were arrested as a result of a tip-off.
Last month, customs officials in Dubai announced they prevented 1,628 attempts to smuggle contraband into the country in 2017, drawing particular attention to the seizure of one tonne of Captagon pills that had been concealed in a shipment of animal guts.
A 26-year-old Syrian man who was arrested last April in connection with the seizure was later acquitted of drug charges at Dubai Criminal Court.
Captagon, a brand name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline, is popular with jihadi militants fighting for groups such as Daesh on account of its ability to ward off fatigue and fear and boost strength and resilience.
The psychostimulant was first developed in the early 1960s, and was used for around 25 years as a milder alternative to amphetamines and to treat hyperactivity, narcolepsy and depression.
Before the fall of its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria, Daesh is said to have made millions of dollars from smuggling Captagon pills into the Middle East before selling them to its own fighters.
Some of the terrorists who carried out the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks are believed to have taken the drug before rampaging through the city.
Speaking in January 2016, Masood Karimipour, the regional head of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “We have observed increasing seizures of shipments of Captagon in the countries sharing a border with Syria.”