On August 31st Saudi authorities conducted the country’s largest ever captagon bust, seizing 47 million captagon pills. Captagon is a popular amphetamine pill in the Middle East, used for recreational consumption and by militants in conflict. The authorities said the pills were smuggled in shipments of flour before being transported to a warehouse. Saudi authorities then raided the warehouse, arresting 6 Syrians and 2 Pakistanis when seizing the drugs.
This is one of the biggest captagon seizures yet, and parallels to the historic bust in Italy in 2019 , where tens of millions of captagon pills were seized. Busts of this size demonstrate the size of the captagon market in Saudi Arabia. The pills are produced mainly in Syria before being trafficked to the consumer markets in the Gulf region. There has long been allegations and growing evidence of regime involvement in the trade in Syria, as the drug provides a huge revenue source to counter the country’s collapsed economy. A Newlines Institute report in 2021 estimated the captagon market to be worth $5.7 billion in 2021, while the World Bank stated Syria’s GDP was $21 billion in 2018, falling from $252 billion in 2010, before the civil war began.
Another historic captagon bust occurred on August 31st, when US forces conducted their first captagon seizure off the coast of Oman. A US coast guard fleet seized 2,980 kilograms of hashish and 320 kg of amphetamine pills (captagon) from a fishing vessel. Maritime routes are used by captagon traffickers for large shipments.