Two Pakistanis among eight held in Saudi Arabia’s ‘biggest’ drug bust

RIYADH (AFP): Saudi officers thwarted an attempt to smuggle 47 million amphetamine pills into the country, state media reported Wednesday, describing it as the largest ever drug trafficking operation in the kingdom.

Two Pakistanis and six Syrians were arrested in a raid after the pills, concealed in a flour shipment, arrived at a dry port in the capital Riyadh and were taken to a warehouse, the Saudi Press Agency said.

A spokesman for the Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control said it was the “biggest operation of its kind to smuggle this amount of narcotics into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in one operation”, the agency said.

The report did not specify whether the pills were captagon — the amphetamine wreaking havoc across the Middle East — nor did it say where the pills came from.

Captagon pills are produced mainly in Syria and smuggled to large consumer markets in the Gulf.

Trade in captagon in the Middle East grew exponentially in 2021 to top $5 billion, posing an increasing health and security risk to the region, a report by the New Lines Institute said in April.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest captagon market, and the kingdom´s customs body seized 119 million of the pills last year.

On Tuesday, the Saudi ambassador to Beirut, Waleed Bukhari, told reporters that the kingdom had seized over 700 million narcotic pills that had entered its territory via Lebanon over the past eight years.