US, UK sanction notorious Lebanese, Syrian drug dealers over Captagon trade

Nouh Zeaiter, Hassan Muhammad Daqqou and two of Bashar al-Assad’s cousins were among those designated.

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The US and the UK took coordinated action on Tuesday to sanction a handful of Lebanese and Syrian individuals, including cousins of Bashar al-Assad, over their alleged role in producing or exporting Captagon, the Treasury Department said.

For its part, the UK said it estimates illicit Captagon trade, of which 80 percent of the world’s supply is produced in Syria, to be worth up to $57 billion to the Assad regime.


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“Syria has become a global leader in the production of highly addictive Captagon, much of which is trafficked through Lebanon,” said Treasury official Andrea M. Gacki. “With our allies, we will hold accountable those who support Bashar al-Assad’s regime with illicit drug revenue and other financial means that enable the regime’s continued repression of the Syrian people,” the director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added.

The list of those sanctioned by the US on Tuesday includes Khalid Qaddour, Samer Kamal al-Assad, Wassim Badi al-Assad, Imad Abu Zureik, Hassan Muhammad Daqqou and two of his companies, and Nouh Zeaiter.

Daqqou, dubbed the “Captagon King,” was slapped with a seven-year sentence with hard labor last year by a Lebanese court for producing and trafficking the drug. The Lebanese-Syrian was arrested in April. He and Zeaiter had evaded authorities for years, with the two having close ties with politicians in both Beirut and Damascus.

Zeaiter has multiple arrest warrants against him and is widely believed to live along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Earlier this year, it was reported that Wassim al-Assad posted a photo with Zeaiter at what was believed to be the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus.

Meanwhile, the UK said trade in the drug was a financial lifeline for the Assad regime, estimating it to be worth three times the combined trade of the Mexican cartels. “The production and trafficking of Captagon enriches Assad’s inner circle, militias and warlords, at the expense of the Syrian people who continue to face crippling poverty and repression at the hands of the regime,” read a statement from the Foreign Office.

In addition to sanctioning the individuals named above, the UK designated Abdellatif Hamid, Mustafa Al Masalmeh, Taher Al Kayali, Amer Khiti, Mohammed Shalish, and Raji Falhout.

The Assad regime and Hezbollah turned to the production and export of the amphetamine as Western sanctions took a toll on their revenues.

Washington and London said the latest move highlighted the role of Lebanese drug traffickers, including some with ties to the Iran-backed Hezbollah, in facilitating the export of the drug. “This action also underscores the al-Assad family dominance of illicit Captagon trafficking and its funding for the oppressive Syrian regime,” the Treasury Department said.

Read more: Lebanese court sentences ‘Captagon King’ to seven years in prison with hard labor

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