The latest police seizure of Captagon pills, around 12 million this time, must be commended, but until the problem is addressed at the source, the story looks set to continue, and the market will continue to overflow with the drug.
Every week or so, it seems, another consignment of the amphetamine is found, whether at the airport, the border with Syria, or at the port. This latest haul was discovered at the Beirut port, and two of the four individuals arrested were port staff themselves. Allegedly headed for the United Arab Emirates, and hidden in bags of corn, this huge quantity of drugs raises many questions.
Estimated at a street value of around $500 million, the sheer amount of drugs seized reveals that they were part of a major operation. Producing such quantities of drugs requires a lot of physical space – in terms of factories or plants – and a large network of individuals involved. It is clear that such facilities must exist in areas outside of government control, or that they are being allowed to operate, with certain local authorities or figures choosing to turn a blind eye to the phenomenon.
As with the food and medicinal drug scandals of recent years, this Captagon story is indicative of the endemic levels of corruption at play in Lebanon. Those at the source are being protected by certain people of authority, or, at the very least, security services are afraid to crack down on them for fear of others who are protecting the producers.
But until those at the source of the issue are rooted out, the drugs will continue to proliferate, and the lowest level gang members will remain in jail while the ringleaders reap the benefits.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 14, 2014, on page 7.