Assad regime made at least $5.7 billion profit from drug trafficking in 2021, report reveals – Middle East Monitor
In the past year alone, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad made a profit of at least $5.7 billion from its booming narcotics trade, as it continues to smuggle captagon pills worldwide.
Since 2019, shipments containing tens of millions of captagon pills – a highly addictive type of narcotic used as an alternative to amphetamine – have been captured and intercepted across the Mediterranean and Gulf region. The most popular recorded cases include the interception by Saudi authorities of 44 million pills in April 2020 and the seizure by Italian authorities of over 84 million pills.
These pills are hidden in basic, unsuspecting items purchased across the world, including rolls of paper, rubber tires, and machine parts. Many initially believed that the Daesh terrorist group was responsible for their production and distribution.
However, it was later discovered that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and its affiliated militias were producing the drugs and carrying out smuggling operations through the Middle East and Europe in an attempt to raise funds and circumvent international sanctions.
A report from the German newspaper The Spiegel further cements this fact, revealing that the Assad regime derives lucrative profits from the illegal trade. Citing the Washington-based New Lines Institute, he said a conservative profit estimate was at least $5.7 billion in 2021 alone, while other think tanks and intelligence agencies Westerners estimate the total profits from the Syrian narcotics trade at tens of millions of dollars. Billions.
These estimates are at least several times higher than the country’s legal exports, meaning that the heavily sanctioned Assad regime survives primarily on the profits of this illegal global trade. Many have dubbed Assad’s Syria a “narco state”.
“I believe the Assad regime would not survive the loss of Captagon revenue,” the German newspaper said, quoting former US special envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn. Assad, his regime and his family network are not outsiders or just indirect beneficiaries of the trade, he insisted, but “they are the cartel”.
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According to the report, a key figure leading captagon smuggling operations is Maher al-Assad – President Assad’s brother – and his Fourth Army Division, which commands and controls shipments of the product leaving the northern port of Latakia. . This military unit would earn $300,000 for each container, making it a key player and beneficiary of the trade.
The The Spiegel The report also reveals the involvement of personalities and businessmen with links to Europe, who were identified after telephone communications were intercepted by European authorities and investigation teams. One such figure was a Syrian businessman identified as Iyad C., who ran the logistics of smuggling operations and lived in various locations, including the German town of Speyer where his family fled in 2015.
With investigators linking over a ton of hashish and over a ton of Captagon – with a market value of around 130 million euros ($135.5 million) – to Iyad C. and his team , the man was recently arrested in Germany while visiting family. His trial is due to begin soon in the German city of Essen, at the same time as the trial of two other Syrians and an Algerian.
Investigators also proved that the individual and his team had direct links to the Assad regime in their operations, as one of the alleged accomplices – Mohamad B. – was heard bragging in an intercepted telephone conversation about his excellent and friendly relations with the Assad family. members.
Another revelation provided by the report was that the real intended destination for the captagon pills are the Arab Gulf countries, and that the pills are deliberately being sent to Europe to be intercepted by border authorities in an attempt to deceive Saudi customs officers and emirates. The pills that are not captured are then repackaged and sent to the Gulf, as Arab border officials will almost never examine containers from Europe.
According to the report, an unnamed German official pointed out that “the shipments are too lucrative. A container that can bring in hundreds of millions of euros – that attracts criminals like flies. We must stop it”. He added that the Syrian authorities are “producing stuff like there’s no tomorrow”.
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