Iraq News

Italy seizes ISIS drugs worth 1 billion euros

By AFP and Diyaruna staff


Syrian police show seized drugs and Captagon pills at the Drug Enforcement Administration in Damascus on January 4th, 2016. [Louai Beshara/AFP]

Italian police said Wednesday (July 1st) they had seized a 14-tonne haul of amphetamines made by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), calling it the biggest seizure of such drugs in the world.

The drug, in the form of around 84 million Captagon tablets hidden inside industrial goods within containers, was worth about one billion euros ($1.12 billion), the finance police of Naples said in a statement.

It was intended to be sold on the European market "to finance terrorism", the statement said.

"We know that ISIS 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 said.


A police dog searches for drugs in a food shop during an operation against drug smugglers in the Italian city of Naples in this file photo from October 14th, 2009. [Mario Laporta/AFP]

Police said three suspect containers had arrived at the port of Salerno, just south of Naples, containing large cylindrical paper rolls for industrial use as well as industrial machinery.

Cutting open the paper rolls and metal gearwheels with chainsaws, police found them filled with tablets. Video images taken by police showed pills spilling out of the rolls and wheels as they were forced opened.

"This is the largest seizure of amphetamines in the world," police said.

Extensive drug use and trade

ISIS "makes extensive use of [Captagon] in all territories over which it exerts influence and where it controls the drug trade", Naples police said, citing the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Once drug-manufacturing plants are established, "it is easy for ISIS to produce large quantities also for the world market for synthetic drugs, in order to quickly accumulate substantial funding", the statement said.

In June 2017, Diyaruna reported that most ISIS pill production facilities are located in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor.

In areas it controlled, ISIS had been providing the pills to local dealers and to smugglers, who had been selling the pills outside Syria in huge quantities.

ISIS has attempted to justify the use of drugs, even though they are banned under Islam, citing a religious rule that stipulates that what is necessary overrides what is prohibited.

The group has reportedly issued a fatwa allowing the use of Captagon on the pretext that it "facilitates jihad".

ISIS-affiliated clerics are willing to override Islamic prohibitions, regardless of what they might be, as long as they serve the group's objectives, Iraqi sociologist Mohammed Abdul Hassan told Diyaruna in June 2017.

Enough for 'entire European market'

The amount of drugs seized in Naples was sufficient to satisfy the entire European market, Italian police said, without providing a time frame.

A "consortium" of criminal groups were likely involved for the distribution of the drugs, including possibly many clans within the infamous Camorra of Naples, police said.

"The hypothesis is that during the lockdown... production and distribution of synthetic drugs in Europe has practically stopped," the statement said.

"Many smugglers, even in consortiums, have turned to Syria where production, however, does not seem to have slowed down."

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