Italian police made a huge drug bust when they impounded three suspicious container ships on Wednesday that contained 15.4 tons (14 metric tons) of amphetamines, manufactured by ISIS in Syria.
Law enforcement officials said the haul is the world’s largest drug bust in terms of both value and quantity.
Authorities were tipped off about the ships that had docked in the southern Italian port of Salerno. There they found 84 million tablets of the drug Captagon inside machinery and large paper cylinders for industrial use. The market value for the amphetamines, which were bound for Europe was $1.12 billion dollars or one million euros.
A video posted to the Italian Financial Guard’s Twitter page showed agents using saws to cut into large paper and steel cylinders to reveal thousands of tablets stuffed inside, as they poured out.
#GDF #Napoli, sequestro record di 14 tonnellate di #anfetamine: 84 milioni di pasticche prodotte in #Siria da ISIS/DAESH per finanziare il #terrorismo. Oltre 1 miliardo di euro il valore sul mercato. #NoiconVoi pic.twitter.com/McdOljNxa5
— Guardia di Finanza (@GDF) July 1, 2020
In a statement, Italian police said that the drugs were to be sold by ISIS to “finance terrorism.” The drugs were produced in manufacturing facilities in Syria. “This is the largest seizure of amphetamines in the world.”
“We know that the Islamic State finances its terrorist activities mainly by trafficking drugs made in Syria which in the past few years has become the world’s largest producer of amphetamines,” the statement read.
“The hypothesis is that during the lockdown, due to the global epidemiological emergency, the production and distribution of synthetic drugs in Europe has practically stopped and therefore many traffickers with different organized crime groups have turned to Syria, where [production] does not seem to have slowed down,” police said.
Police have been investigating the Camorra organized criminal groups that are based out of Naples for some time. Just two weeks ago, police intercepted, again at the port of Salerno, a container sent from Syria hiding 2,800 kilos (6,200 pounds) of hashish and over a million amphetamine pills bearing the same symbol as the pills intercepted on Wednesday.
This time, the drugs were much better hidden and port scanners did not detect them. Police knew this, however, because they had recordings of several Camorra members speaking on the phone. It is believed that the Camorra takes a cut of the proceeds by helping ISIS with the distribution.
The pills carried the “Captagon” logo, which is known as “the drug of Jihad,” according to the statement. The Captagon brand name was originally for a medicinal product containing the synthetic stimulant fenethylline. That drug is no longer produced or used, but drugs carrying the Captagon name are regularly seized in the Middle East, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
American officials have been stating for years that ISIS fighters have been using Captagon, which can cause a surge of energy and a euphoric high. Customs officials said that the jihadists use the drug to “inhibit fear and pain.”
“The Islamic State and al Nusra Front are also believed to facilitate the smuggling of chemical precursors for the production of Captagon,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) chief, Yury Fedotov, said at a press conference back in 2015.
In May 2018, American-led Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels in Syria discovered and then destroyed a cache of Captagon worth an estimated $1.4 million, according to military officials. The FSA forces found the drugs during anti-ISIS operations near the key U.S. base at al-Tanf, an area on Syria’s southeast border with Iraq.