Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi Interior Ministry yesterday announced that authorities had arrested 195 individuals on charges of smuggling drugs into Saudi Arabia in what was one of the largest anti-drug smuggling operations in Saudi Arabian history.
Saudi Interior Ministry security spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki told the media that operations to arrest 3 drug smuggling gangs took place in Saudi Arabia over the past four months and resulted in the seizure of more than 8 million tablets of the antidepressant Captagon, two tons of Hashish, and more than 20 kg of pure heroin in addition to the arrest of 195 drug traffickers. Al-Turki also revealed that the arrests had taken place during different stages of the drug trafficking operation, and that some had taken place whilst drugs were being smuggled, while others had taken place at the preparation phase.
Images released by the Saudi Interior Ministry yesterday revealed how drug smuggling gangs had developed innovative methods of concealing their product in order to smuggle it into the country, and that drugs were hidden within furniture and other items in order to pass inspection. The images also showed that the security forces had seized a number of weapons that the drug smugglers were in possession of.
Major General Mansour al-Turki confirmed that drug seizures took place in most regions of Saudi Arabia, but stressed that the most active regions of Saudi Arabia with regards to drug smuggling are the countries northern and southern borders. Al-Turki also did not rule out the drug smugglers having a connection to Al Qaeda, and he said that Al Qaeda has resorted to such crimes in order to finance their terrorist operations, after failing to obtain financing via traditional means.
General al-Turki also confirmed that the strategy employed by Saudi Arabia in dealing with drug smuggling is built upon anticipating the activities of drug smugglers rather than waiting for their operations to reach Saudi territory. He stressed the importance of international cooperation in this field, as well as the importance of utilizing up-to-date information on how to detect criminal gangs and drug smugglers.
In response to a question by Asharq Al-Awsat on whether Riyadh intended to contact Interpol in order to prosecute those implicated in drug smuggling operations who are outside of Saudi jurisdiction, Major General al-Turki said that “it is possible that we will contact the international police…when there is sufficient evidence against those who committed these.”
Major General al-Turki also answered Asharq Al-Awsat’s question as to the results of the investigation carried out by a Saudi security delegation into one of the Pakistani gangs behind drug smuggling operations into Saudi Arabia, saying that Saudi Arabia “is keen to learn the methods utilized by the gang who use pilgrims in their drug smuggling operations. We want to know more about the methods followed by this gang in order to ensure that they are not utilized again.”
The statement issued by the Saudi Interior Ministry revealed that in one operation 94 individuals were arrested for their involvement in smuggling more than 8 million tablets of the antidepressant Captagon into Saudi Arabia. Those arrested included 59 Saudi citizens, 8 Syrians, 6 Yemenis, and 1 Egyptian, 1 Sudanese, and 1 Turk, in addition to 18 others who illegally infiltrated Saudi Arabian territory and whose identities have not yet been revealed. The Interior Ministry revealed that this gang hid the Captagon tablets – which are used recreationally throughout the Arab world – in a professional manner within shipments of women’s clothing, wallpaper, metal tools used in the iron production industry, equipment used to manufacture sweets and pastries, and even concealed within bars of soap.
The Saudi Interior Ministry also revealed that Saudi authorities had arrested 72 different individuals in a separate operation, including 49 Saudi citizens, 11 Yemenis, and 1 Syrian and 1 Indian, in addition to 10 others who illegally infiltrated Saudi territory. This gang was arrested for their involvement of producing and attempting to smuggle hashish into Saudi Arabia, and the authorities seized more than 2 tones of hashish.
The Interior Ministry also announced that 29 Pakistanis had been arrested for their part in smuggling heroin into the country, and that Saudi authorities had seized more than 20 kg of pure heroin.