Saudi prince arrested on private plane with 2 tons of drugs

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LONDON: A Saudi prince has been arrested after two tonnes of amphetamines were seized before they were due to be loaded onto his private jet in Lebanon on Monday.

Lebanese officials say they have foiled one of the biggest drug smuggling attempts in the Arab country’s history after the haul of Captagon pills was found at Beirut airport.

Saudi prince Abdel Mohsen Bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz and four others were detained while allegedly attempting to smuggle about two tons of Captagon pills and some cocaine, a security source told AFP.

Captagon is the brand name for the amphetamine phenethylline, a synthetic stimulant. The banned drug is consumed mainly in the Middle East and has reportedly been widely used by rebel fighters in Syria.

The security source said the drugs had been packed into cases that were waiting to be loaded onto a private plane that was headed to Saudi Arabia.

The five Saudi citizens were still in the airport and would be questioned by Lebanon’s customs authority, the source added.

In April 2014, security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle 15 million capsules of Captagon hidden in shipping containers full of corn from Beirut’s port.

Lebanon’s state news agency also reported Monday’s drug bust, saying the private plane was to head to Riyadh and was carrying 40 suitcases full of Captagon. 

Captagon manufacturing thrives in Lebanon and war-torn Syria, which have become a gateway for the drug to the Middle East and particularly the Gulf.

The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime said in a 2014 report that the amphetamine market is on the rise in the Middle East.

There have been busts mostly in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria accounting for more than 55 percent of amphetamines seized worldwide.  

Saudi Arabia’s large royal family has had past run-ins with authorities in various countries.

Late last month, a Saudi prince was arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly trying to force a woman to perform oral sex on him at a Beverly Hills mansion.

But authorities decided not to pursue the charge, citing a lack of evidence.

In 2013, a Saudi princess was accused in Los Angeles of enslaving a Kenyan woman as a housemaid, but the charges were also eventually dropped.

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