The Guardia di Finanza said that markings on the drugs were consistent with those used by Islamic State (IS). Though the amphetamine has been linked to IS in the past, some experts doubted that IS had the capacity to produce drugs in such quantities, and stated that Syrian pro-regime entities were more likely responsible.
IN: Police in Italy have announced the seizure of the largest shipment of amphetamines in counter-narcotics history, containing drugs believed to have been manufactured by the Islamic State in Syria. The drugs shipment was intercepted at the port of Salerno, located south of Naples in southwestern Italy.
#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
Italian police announced on Wednesday that it had made “the largest seizure of amphetamines in the world”, both in terms of quantity and street value. The latter is estimated at approximately $1 billion. Drug traffickers are rarely known to transport such large volumes of drugs in a single shipment, due to the risk of capture by the authorities. However, the lack of supply in Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic has prompted suppliers to take unusual risks, according to experts.
The amphetamines —approximately 84 million tablets— were found hidden inside three containers filled with paper cylinders. More pills had been placed inside the hollow parts of agricultural machinery products, according to police. The confiscated tablets are marked with the logo for the drug Captagon, which is better known by its genetic name, Fenethylline. Captagon was a popular drug in the Middle East in the 1990s, and today amphetamines produced by the Islamic State bear its logo, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
The drug is regularly given to Islamic State volunteers prior to battles and terrorist attacks, in order to help reduce their inhibitions, including susceptibility to fear, and to prevent them from feeling physical pain. Security agencies in the Middle East refer to the substance as “the jihad drug”. It is particularly prevalent in Syria, which has become the global leader in the production of illicit amphetamines in the past decade.
Italian police said the shipment was most likely intended for distribution by “a consortium of criminal groups”, who would then traffic the substance to illicit markets across Europe. It would be unthinkable for a single distributor to be able to afford a $1 billion single purchase, according to officials. The largest buyer among these distributors was probably the Camorra —the organized crime syndicate based in the region of Naples. The Camorra has international links through which it can channel the illicit drugs in much larger volumes than other crime syndicates, according to experts.
Asked about the clues that led to the seizure of the amphetamines, a spokesman for the Italian police said the force knew the when the shipment was coming in, due to “ongoing investigations we have with the Camorra”. He added, “we intercepted phone calls and members, so we knew what to expect”.