Archives de 16 novembre 2015

The arrest of a Saudi prince on amphetamine-smuggling charges draws attention to the notorious drug-trafficking networks that cross the Middle East’s political and sectarian divides.

Drugs from Lebanon are another factor fuelling the endless war in Syria.
Drugs from Lebanon are another factor fuelling the endless war in Syria. AP
by Jeff NeumannLebanon has long been a playground for wealthy citizens of austere Arab countries, but even the worldly Lebanese were taken aback on October 26 when security officials arrested a 29-year-old Saudi prince, Abdel Mohsen bin Walid bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud, on suspicion of trying to take two tons of amphetamines with him on a private jet bound for the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Lebanese police also arrested four other Saudi men at Beirut International Airport in what the state news agency described as the biggest bust in the airport’s history.

The prince’s arrest has focused attention on Lebanon’s notorious drug-trafficking networks and their ability to cross the Middle East’s political and sectarian divides. Combatants in Syria’s civil war, civilians in the battle-weary region and the wealthy citizens of the Gulf countries all have a growing appetite for hard drugs. That demand has, in turn, generated fresh revenues for drug barons and militias, who, as they did in previous wars in Colombia, Afghanistan and elsewhere, have become allies of convenience in many cases.

Analysts say that the war next door has tied up many of Lebanon’s security officials who might otherwise be fighting drug traffickers; many are busy monitoring the volatile border areas and the pockets of jihadis straddling it who are sympathetic to extremist Sunni groups involved in the Syrian war. The police and army lack of focus on the drug-producing regions has inadvertently helped fuel the rise of the amphetamine trade. Lebanese hashish producers say that the limited law enforcement presence in the country’s Bekaa Valley, in particular over the past two years, has contributed to a barely interrupted supply of marijuana, driving street prices down and cutting into profit margins.

That decline in profits, and the growing appeal of amphetamines in the Middle East, has created an incentive for some hashish dealers here to produce more amphetamines. In recent years, makeshift labs have sprung up in Lebanese villages and just over the Syrian border. These labs churn out a knock-off version of Captagon, a brand name for the widely banned synthetic amphetamine phenethylline. That’s what the police say they found on the Saudi prince’s plane.

Deep family ties on both sides of the Lebanon-Syria border ensure the flow of drugs, weapons and militiamen is largely uninterrupted
Deep family ties on both sides of the Lebanon-Syria border ensure the flow of drugs, weapons and militiamen is largely uninterrupted AP

Drug dealers in the Bekaa Valley say they are used to dealing with customers from the Gulf states. « Saudis and other Gulfies are the biggest buyers of Captagon, absolutely, » says Abu Hussein, a Lebanese drug trafficker from a village several miles from the Syrian border. « They believe it gives them special powers for sex, » he adds, smiling mischievously.

The drug is not only popular for those rumoured benefits; fighters from all sides of the Syrian war use the pill’s speedy effects to stay alert for long stretches on the battlefield. Competing propaganda outlets frequently claim Captagon pills have been discovered on dead and captured enemy fighters. For Hezbollah and Syrian government forces, alleging their enemies are taking drugs plays into claims they are fighting against nonbeliever « terrorists. »

Supply and demand

The war in Syria has created supply as well as demand. Supplies of Captagon in the region rose after Syrian rebels lost the city of Qusayr to Hezbollah fighters backed by the Syrian army in 2013. Qusayr has been transformed into a Captagon production and distribution hub and a hideout for notorious Lebanese Shiite traffickers, some of whom are subject to arrest warrants on charges of murder, kidnapping and currency counterfeiting, says Abu Hussein. The city, which was once home to roughly 60,000 mostly Sunni residents, lies on a strategic route linking Damascus to the Syrian regime’s Mediterranean coastal stronghold. Today, according to Abu Hussein and people who have travelled recently to Qusayr, the city is mostly a transit point and garrison for Hezbollah and allied Syrian militiamen.

At times, the lines between drug baron and warlord become blurred. Lebanon’s most flamboyant drug lord, Noah Zaiter, was filmed in September with Hezbollah fighters besieging the rebel-held Syrian mountain town of Zabadani. Wearing his trademark cowboy hat, Zaiter pledged to destroy ISIS, in the name of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

Deep family ties on both sides of the border – and in both drug-smuggling organisations and militias – ensure that the flow of drugs, weapons and militiamen is largely uninterrupted. Most of the drugs go through the Bekaa Valley, a narrow, fertile basin that runs parallel to Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria and is arguably the Middle East’s primary hub for counterfeit amphetamine pills. Bracketed by two mountain ranges, the picturesque plain has long been known for the production and trafficking of narcotics – mostly locally grown hashish and cocaine smuggled from Latin America and West Africa.

« The Bekaa is basically a tribal land, ruled by clans that are heavily armed and often involved in the drug trade, » says Timur Goksel, a former UN peacekeeping official in Lebanon, now an editor for the news site Al-Monitor. « The police are practically nonexistent there, » he adds. « The whole structure of the Lebanese state allows this to happen. »

Crackdown a ‘failure’

The Lebanese army and police promised a crackdown on criminal activity in the Bekaa Valley in February, but after nine months Lebanese politicians have deemed it a flop. One Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament last month called the plan « a total failure, » and Lebanon’s Interior Minister Mohammad Machnouk, who belongs to a political bloc opposed to Hezbollah, agreed, telling reporters in October the crackdown was nothing more than « empty promises ». A police spokesman said the country’s security forces are preparing a new plan.

The Bekaa is the backyard, training camp and birthplace of Hezbollah, which was formed over three decades ago by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. The only building in a vast field of chest-high hashish plants near the Bekaa village of Taraya is a small green and white mosque. The square structure, which stands alone at a small crossroads, flies the yellow and green flag of Hezbollah and black banners bearing religious rallying cries.

Hezbollah and the prominent Shiite drug trading clans here are mostly bound by mutual self-interest. Both offer some protection for the other: the clans have recently helped to secure Hezbollah supply lines to its forces fighting in Syria, while the group allegedly provides political cover to top clan members during occasional law enforcement crackdowns near their turf.

Several of the area’s most prominent traffickers downplayed the role that the Captagon trade plays in fuelling the war in Syria. When asked, most cited the drug’s rock-bottom wholesale price, the high cost of black-market military hardware and a massive influx of foreign money as reasons why the profits from even large sales of the low-cost narcotic would not greatly influence the war’s course.

Business decision

Abu Hussein and his family have made their fortune by growing and selling hashish in this part of the country for decades, as well as moving shipments of cocaine. Captagon is so cheap and easy to produce, he says, that the Gulf’s insatiable appetite for the drug made getting in on the action several years ago an obvious business decision. Chinese-made pill presses sell for anywhere from $700 to $2000 here, and the chemicals used in production are similarly inexpensive and easy to acquire, mostly by way of smuggling routes from Turkey.

Captagon is one of the cheapest narcotics available in the Middle East. The small, eastern town of Baalbek, famed for its Roman ruins and decades of virtual lawlessness, has numerous small labs. There, one pill goes for $1 to $2 on the street. In Beirut, the average going rate is $10 apiece

Some Lebanese cocaine dealers admit that they sometimes cut their product with Captagon because it’s so inexpensive and readily accessible. The United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime reports that Saudi Arabia’s drug of choice is amphetamines – usually some form of Captagon. According to UNODC figures, nearly 40 per cent of the world’s amphetamine seizures were made in the Middle East in 2009. Over half of those occurred in Saudi Arabia, where drug charges are often punishable by death.

« It’s a garbage drug, but it’s inexpensive, » says Marwan, a 31-year-old IT specialist from the Bekaa who says he uses Captagon several times a week. « We can only afford cocaine for special occasions. »

Despite the attention that the Saudi prince’s arrest has brought to drug smuggling in the region, Abu Hussein says he’s not concerned about a crackdown on producers and dealers. « The army will issue threats, and the police will stay away, as always, » he says. « Once a year they arrest a few of our cousins, and there are no charges. There is no Lebanese state. »

International Business Times

Jeff Neumann is a Lebanon-based journalist writing for The Economist and Newsweek, among others.

©IB Times, distributed by The Washington Post

The Washington Post

 Germany’s Most Notorious Darknet Drug Dealer Sentenced to Only 7 Years

 Written by Theresa Locker Redakteurin Motherboard Deutschland


One of Germany’s most spectacular narcotics trials ever came to a close on Monday in Leipzig. The 20-year-old, Maximilian S., was found guilty of selling 914 kg of drugs over the darknet and clearnet. The sentence: seven years imprisonment. The sentencing marked the end of the biggest trial to date concerning darknet crime in Germany.

After Maximilian S.’s surprising confession at the end of September, the presiding judge, Norbert Göbel, found him guilty of constructing and running the Shiny Flakes online shop. From December 2013 up until his arrest on February 26th, 2015 he received 4.4 million euros (about $4.8 million) worth of Bitcoin (3.9 million euros after loss in value, or about $4.2 million) in revenue.



Autor Theresa Locker Redakteurin Motherboard Deutschland

2 November 2015 // 03:30 PM CET

In Leipzig ist am Montag einer der spektakulärsten BTM-Prozesse Deutschlands zu Ende gegangen: Der 20-jährige Maximilian S. wurde für schuldig befunden, 914 kg Drogen über das Darknet und Clearnet verkauft zu haben. Das Urteil: Sieben Jahre Haft. Die Verurteilung erfolgte nach Jugendstrafrecht vor dem Landgericht Leipzig und markiert damit auch das Ende des bisher größten deutschen Prozesses um Darknet-Kriminalität.

Nach seinem für viele Beobachter überraschenden Geständnis Ende September befand ihn der Vorsitzende Richter Göbel für schuldig, den Online-Drogenshop Shiny Flakes aufgebaut und betrieben zu haben. Von Dezember 2013 bis zu seiner Verhaftung am 26.02.2015 habe er Bitcoins in Höhe von 4,4 Mio. Euro (3,9 Mio. Euro nach Wertverlust) eingenommen.

Richter Göbel äußerte sich in seiner Urteilsbegründung auch zur Digitalisierung des Drogenhandels, die in den vergangenen Jahren dank Darknet-Schwarzmärkten und anonymen Zahlungsmöglichkeiten als Alternative zum traditionellen Straßenverkauf aufgetaucht war: „Der Computerkram mag vieles erleichtern, aber das [Online Verkaufen] ist genauso schlimm wie auf der Straße zu dealen“, erklärte Göbel und bewertet damit den Verkauf aus dem Kinderzimmer heraus nicht strafmindernd.

Maximilian S. nahm das Urteil ungerührt auf. Schon während der heutigen Zeugenaussage seiner Mutter, er sei im Umgang mit ihr zunehmend „uneinsichtig, mürrisch, beratungsresistent und faul“ gewesen, zeigte er kaum Emotionen. Er möchte im Gefängnis eine Ausbildung anfangen. Pläne habe er zwar noch nicht, jedoch wolle er „auf keinen Fall Künstler oder Pfleger werden“, wie er gegenüber der Jugendgerichtshilfe sagte. Jedoch habe die Haft bereits erzieherische Wirkung hin zu mehr Einsicht beim Angeklagten geleistet, so die Sachverständigen.

„Wenn’s nicht illegal gewesen wäre, hätte man eigentlich den Hut vor dem Angeklagten ziehen müssen.“

Anders als bisher von Prozessbeobachtern erwartet, entschied das Gericht, Maximilian S. nach Jugendstrafrecht zu verurteilen. Dem Urteil vorausgegangen war ein Gutachten der Jugendgerichtshilfe, das Maximilian S. zwar wirtschaftliche Selbstständigkeit und einen hohen IQ, jedoch eine mangelnde „Lebensplanung“ und emotionale Unreife bescheinigte.

Der Angeklagte Maximilian S. nimmt neben seinem Anwalt Platz. Bild: Theresa Locker / MOTHERBOARD.

In solchen Päckchen verschickte Shiny Flakes seine Ware und legte dabei gerne auch ein Gummibärchen zum Ecstasy dazu. Bild: Bak Navi. VICE / MOTHERBOARD

Der forensische Sachverständige Dr. Hyronimus schloss sich weitestgehend dem Gutachten der Jugendgerichtshilfe an, das am Montag ebenfalls verlesen wurde: Maximilian S. sei bereits als Kind auffällig und in der Schule unbeliebt gewesen, auch habe er eine zehnjährige medikamentöse und in Teilen auch psychologische ADHS-Therapie durchlaufen. Dementsprechend habe er „die emotionale Tragweite seiner Tat bis heute „nicht verstanden“, ihm fehle „ein emotionaler Kompass“ sowie die Fähigkeit zur sozialen Interaktion in Gruppen. Beide Sachverstädnigen attestierten ihm eine „verzögerte Reifeentwicklung“.



Johnny Kock, 68, shipped high purity cocaine between Holland, Germany and Merseyside

Liverpool Echo 

Johnny Kock: The pensioner remained completely unknown to police until his secret life was exposed when border agents in France

A drugs kingpin who posed as a respectable businessman to import almost a BILLION pounds of cocaine now faces a challenge by prosecutors to seize his international assets.

Johnny Kock used a pond liner company as cover to ship vast amounts of high purity cocaine in boxes of washing powder – using legitimate companies as unwitting allies.

The 68-year-old Dutchman masterminded a massive drugs pipeline between Holland, Germany and Merseyside – capable of flooding the streets with up to £960million of high purity cocaine, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Kock, who was living in a nondescript, semi-detached house in Willow Road, Wavertree, Liverpool, with his partner Deborah Fagan, was jailed for 25 years in October last year.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how a Proceeds Of Crime Act (POCA) hearing will be held next year in order to try and seize his assets – which could include a Portuguese property.

Liverpool Echo Cocaine imported by Johnny Kock disguised in washing powder boxes
Crook: Cocaine imported by Johnny Kock disguised in washing powder boxes

Alex Leach, prosecuting, said international investigations had now been completed.

Mr Leach said: “As far as Johnny Kock is concerned there are some international assets including a substantial asset in Portugal in contention and there is an underlying issue with his former wife Nina Gospodynova.”

He said that Miss Gospdynova had been informed of the proceedings, despite it being “very difficult to get hold of her”.

Fagan, 46, who was jailed for 12 months in April last year after admitting charges relating to drugs money, will also be part of the proceedings.

Liverpool Echo Liverpool Crown Court
Facing justice: Liverpool Crown Court heard how a Proceeds Of Crime Act hearing will be held next year

Judge Andrew Hatton said the hearing would take place on March 21 next year, with an estimated length of four days.

The pensioner, described as “quiet, intelligent and unsuspecting”, remained completely unknown to police until his secret life was exposed when border agents in France uncovered one of his shipments in September 2013.

Liverpool Echo 125 kilos of cocaine seized on their way to Liverpool
Gotcha: 125 kilos of cocaine seized on its way to Liverpool

Officers suspected Kock was responsible for importing at least £3.5m of super strength cocaine on a fortnightly basis.

It is believed he could have been responsible for trafficking up to six kilos of the drug in 57 separate shipments at the behest of crime cartels.

Only when border agents at the Channel Tunnel entrance in France uncovered 23 kilos of cocaine – with a purity of up to 88% – in a shipment of soap powder did the net close in.

Orders were delivered to several different addresses but the end customer was always Kock’s company, Aquaries Ltd, based at Binns Road industrial estate in Old Swan.

Kock admitted conspiracy to evade the ban on importing Class A drugs plus possessing criminal property.


BRINDISI – Ingenti quantitativi di cocaina sarebbero giunti in Italia dal Nord Europa, secondo quanto emerso da indagini condotte dai carabinieri che hanno eseguito in vari comuni della provincia di Brindisi e a Bologna un’ordinanza di custodia cautelare a firma del gip Maurizio Saso a carico di 15 persone. Un provvedimento risulta al momento non eseguito.

Le persone arrestate e finite in carcere sono Francesco Trisolini, 51 anni di Oria; Patricia Theodora Van Heel, 43 anni olandese; Daniere Risonola, 40 anni di Oria; Semira Ruggiero, 46 anni di Oria; Simone Nucera, 29 anni di Oria; Patrizio Perrone, 55 anni di Torchiarolo; Maria Grazia Mileto, 49 anni di Torchiarolo; Raffaele Trisolini, 46 anni residente a Bologna; Giancarlo Secondo Rogoli, 49 anni di Mesagne; Lucrezia Maggi, 36 anni, di Torre Santa Susanna; Salvatore Morleo, 32 anni, di Torre Santa Susanna, Giuseppe SOlazzo, 33 anni di Torre Santa Susanna; Luigi Calati, 33 anni di Mesagne.
Ai domiciliari: Santo Mastria, 56 anni, di Oria; Crocifisso Di Potenza, di Latiano, 29 anni.



Neuf personnes ont été arrêtées. 60 kg de cannabis et 14 g de cocaïne ont été saisis. © Liberté
 Cette filière internationale a longtemps sévi dans les localités de Birkhadem, Hydra, Bab El-Oued, à l’est d’Alger et à Boumerdès.

Un important réseau spécialisé dans le trafic de drogue et de cocaïne a été démantelé, le week-end dernier, par les éléments de la Brigade de recherche et d’intervention (BRI) relevant de la sûreté de la wilaya d’Alger. Composée de neuf individus, cette filière internationale dispose  d’importantes complicités à l’extrême ouest du pays, plus exactement à Maghnia (Tlemcen) où la marchandise, en provenance du royaume chérifien, transitait.
Le chef de sûreté de la wilaya d’Alger, Noureddine Berachedi, a révélé à Liberté que “le plus important dans cette affaire est le démantèlement de tout un réseau et la récupération de ses moyens logistiques”. En effet, la mise hors d’état de nuire de ce réseau a nécessité un travail de longue haleine des enquêteurs de la BRI. Ces derniers ont, dans un premier temps, réussi à localiser des narcotrafiquants dans la région de Maghnia, le Grand-Alger et Boumerdès. Après quoi, plusieurs souricières ont été tendues pour les pister et identifier leurs complicités et les lieux où était stockée la drogue, notamment la cocaïne.
Les multiples perquisitions de domiciles ont permis aux enquêteurs de récupérer des quantités importantes de résine de cannabis et de poudre  blanche. Selon M. Berachedi, la cocaïne était écoulée dans des cabarets et les quartiers riches de la capitale. En ce sens, notre interlocuteur a révélé que sept véhicules haut de gamme et plus de 300 millions de centimes ont également été saisis lors des différentes opérations menées par la BRI. Ces opérations ont
touché plusieurs localités d’Alger, dont Birkhadem, Hydra et Bab El-Oued, Réghaïa et Rouiba où la première cellule de ce réseau avait dissimulé plus de 60 kg de cannabis et 14 grammes de drogues dures. La seconde cellule, elle, activait sur l’axe Alger-Boumerdès. Celle-ci avait également écoulé d’importantes quantités de stupéfiants avant son démantèlement. Interrogé si le principal mis en cause, à savoir le baron, a été interpellé lors de cette opération, M. Berachedi a indiqué que ce dernier est identifié et demeure en fuite. En revanche, sa femme, qui était à la tête du réseau et qui acheminait l’argent et la cocaïne, notamment à Alger, a été interpellée par la BRI. Présentés hier matin devant le procureur de la République près le tribunal d’El-Harrach, ces neuf individus ont été inculpés pour association de malfaiteurs, détention et commercialisation de drogue, dont les drogues dites dures. Ces derniers ont été placés sous mandat de dépôt en attendant les résultats de l’instruction, notamment pour savoir où et comment l’argent des ventes a été blanchi.

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