MILAN: Italian police say their world-record haul of 15 tonnes of amphetamines was to finance the Lebanese Hizbollah terrorist group.
They had earlier believed that the 84 million counterfeit Captagon pills, worth $1.1 billion and suspected to be made in Syria, was to fund the jihadist Islamic State (IS).
According to Italian NOVA news agency, police in Napoli, which investigated the Hizbollah links, described the operation as the “biggest seizure of its kind in the world”.
The pills were found hidden inside large drums of paper and gear wheels loaded in three containers in the port of Salerno.
Reports show that drug trafficking represents one of the main sources of funding for Iran-linked Hizbollah militia.
Captagon is a brand name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline. It was originally used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, but many countries banned it during the 1980s because of its addictive properties.
Now, counterfeit Captagon is reportedly one of the most popular drugs among affluent youths in the Middle East.
The drug has also been consumed by combatants in the civil war in Syria, including IS militants, who value its ability to inhibit fear and ward off tiredness.
Syria is believed to be the biggest producer and exporter of counterfeit Captagon.
The pills seized in Salerno were sufficient to satisfy the entire European market, and it was likely that a “consortium” of criminal groups would have been involved in their distribution across the continent.
“The hypothesis is that during the coronavirus lockdown... production and distribution of synthetic drugs in Europe has practically stopped,” a Naples police statement added.
“Many smugglers, even in consortiums, have turned to Syria where production, however, does not seem to have slowed down.”