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Fri May 7, 2021, 11:35 AM

'A dirty business': how one drug is turning Syria into a narco-state

Source: The Guardian

‘A dirty business’: how one drug is turning Syria into a narco-state

Manufacture of Captagon is a growth industry so big it is starting to rival GDP of flatlining economy

Martin Chulov Middle East correspondent
Fri 7 May 2021 10.54 BST

In the summer of 2015 a businessman in the Syrian province of Latakia was approached by a powerful security chief, seeking a favour. The official wanted the merchant, an importer of medical supplies, to source large amounts of a drug called fenethylline from abroad. The regime, he said, would readily buy the lot.

After an internet search, the merchant made a decision. He left his home that same week, first sending his wife and children to exile, then following after, scrounging what he could from his businesses for a new start. “I know what they were asking me to do,” he said from his new home in Paris. “They wanted the main ingredient for Captagon. And that drug is a dirty business.”

Other businessmen in Syria’s north have not shared his reservations. The manufacture of Captagon in the regime heartland has become one of Syria’s only recent business success stories; a growth industry so big and sophisticated that it is starting to rival the GDP of the flatlining economy itself.

From the ruins of Syria, and the similarly disastrous collapse across the border in Lebanon, where in late April a shipment of Captagon hidden in pomegranates and exported from Beirut was found by Saudi officials, a reality is crystallising: both countries are fast becoming narco-states - if they have not met that definition already.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/07/drug-captagon-turning-syria-into-narco-state

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