JEDDAH -- On a table covered in a green sheet, two Saudi police officers pour out thousands of white amphetamine pills they have just seized from a neighbourhood in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
The anti-narcotics agents had arrested three people carrying 28,000 Captagon tablets during a Tuesday (March 1) raid, part of the kingdom's efforts to crack down on dealers and smugglers of the amphetamine-type stimulant.
"The kingdom's authorities have in the past six years foiled attempts to smuggle more than 600 million amphetamine pills" coming from Lebanon alone, said General Directorate of Narcotics Control spokesman Maj. Mohammed al-Nujaidi.
He accused the "Hizbullah terrorist militia" of being "the main source smuggling them and manufacturing them".
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Captagon has been manufactured mostly in Lebanon and Syria.
It has been widely used by combatants in Syria's war, where Hizbullah is fighting in support of the regime in clear violation of Lebanon's policy of dissociation from regional conflicts.
More than 25 million Captagon pills have been seized across the region since the start of the year, according to an AFP count.
"There have been different smuggling methods, including in fruits and vegetables, tyres, rocks, building materials and furniture," al-Nujaidi said.
In January, Lebanon said it intercepted a large quantity of Captagon hidden in a tea shipment bound for Saudi Arabia.
The pills, likely manufactured in Lebanon or Syria, were concealed in a seven-tonne shipment of tea at Beirut port, interior minister Bassam Mawlawi said.
Hizbullah's attempts to generate revenue for its fighters via illegal drug trafficking have undermined Lebanon's relationships with countries in the region and its ability to trade with them.
"Hizbullah puts its own interest ahead of the interests of the Lebanese people and the Lebanese state," Fathi al-Sayed of the Middle East Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies told Al-Mashareq last May.
Last April, the Saudi government suspended the import of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon after the seizure of more than five million Captagon pills hidden in fruit -- one in a series of smuggling attempts foiled last year by the Saudi authorities.
The kingdom seized more Captagon pills in the first quarter of 2021 than it did in all of 2019 and 2020, a Saudi official said.
According to the UNODC, Saudi Arabia reported the largest number of amphetamine seizures in the Middle East/Southwest Asia region from 2015-2019.
Shayaa al-Moussa, a customs agent at the Jeddah port, said that all shipments arriving in the kingdom are scanned via X-ray.
"And, in case of suspicion, the containers are transferred to be searched manually," he said.
Al-Nujaidi said Saudi authorities seized more than 119 million amphetamine pills last year in co-operation with partners including Malaysia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).