Middle East

Lebanon charges Saudi prince with drug smuggling

Pills branded as Captagon seized by the Lebanese authorities in 2010 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Almost two-thirds of global seizures of amphetamine took place in the Middle East

Prosecutors in Lebanon have charged a Saudi prince and nine other people with drug smuggling, a week after a record seizure at Beirut's airport.

The prince was not named, but he and four other Saudis were arrested after two tonnes of Captagon pills were found in cases being loaded on a private jet.

The others charged in the case - three Lebanese and two Saudis - are at large.

Captagon pills, which typically contain amphetamine and caffeine, are consumed widely in the Middle East.

The drug has helped fuel the conflict in Syria, generating millions of dollars in revenue for producers inside the country as well as being used by combatants to help them keep fighting.

Captagon, originally the trade name for the synthetic stimulant fenetylline, was first produced in the 1960s to treat hyperactivity, narcolepsy and depression. But it was banned in most countries by the 1980s because it was too addictive.

In 2013, the UN said 64% of global seizures of amphetamine took place in the Middle East, and that most of the amphetamine was in the form of Captagon pills.