Lebanon News

Cocaine smuggling operation thwarted at Beirut airport

File - Passengers push their luggage at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Friday, March 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese Customs announced Friday that it thwarted a major cocaine smuggling operation at Beirut’s airport, seizing more than 11 kilograms of the drug valued at $1 million, according to the state-run National News Agency. Director General of Lebanese Customs Badri Daher said in a televised news conference that it would have been one of “the most dangerous” cocaine smuggling operations.

According to Daher, the operation’s goal was “most likely to finance terrorism.”

He said that international contraband cases - the drug trade in particular - are known to help finance criminal and terrorist organizations in Lebanon and neighboring countries.

The shipment of cocaine was found Friday morning concealed with two Turkish passengers who had traveled to Beirut from Brazil via Ethiopia.

Daher said it was an exceptional case because the cocaine was found on a person’s body rather than hidden in a separate shipment.

“We are interested in cooperating with citizens if they have any useful and important information [regarding this case], and we will keep the source secret,” Daher said.

He said the operation was thwarted when airport customs personnel conducted a manual physical examination of the two Turkish passengers.

But the success of manual detection, he said, depends on the varying capabilities of individual Customs officers.

He spoke of the need for new equipment and technology at the airport for drug detection, noting cases in which drugs went unnoticed because they had been swallowed by smugglers.

“It might be expensive, but it will give us vital results that outweigh the costs,” he said.

Nevertheless, Daher said the lack of such equipment “does not prevent us from doing our job.”

According to the NNA, over the course of 2018, customs seized 26.7 kilograms of cocaine, 5.48 million Captagon pills, 4.1 tons of hashish and 240 kg of salvia.

Daher congratulated Customs officials on their work, especially on the occasion of the International Customs Day, which falls on Jan. 26.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 26, 2019, on page 3.

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