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EU targets Syrian president’s family over amphetamine business

The European Union on Monday slapped sanctions on several Syrians, including members of President Bashar Assad’s family, accusing them of making and trafficking an amphetamine that enriches and helps to prop up the regime.

Asset freezes and travel bans were imposed on 25 people and 8 “entities” — most of them companies — at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

“The majority of today’s designations target individuals and entities responsible for the production and trafficking of narcotics, notably Captagon,” a statement said.

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“The trade in amphetamine has become a regime-led business model, enriching the inner circle of the regime and providing it with revenue that contributes to its ability to maintain its policies of repression against the civilian population,” it added.

Experts say Captagon is primarily produced in Syria and neighboring Lebanon, where packages containing millions of pills are smuggled into Gulf countries, Europe and elsewhere.

Captagon

A Lebanese security official holds a single confiscated Captagon pill in his hand on July 21, 2022. The European Union imposed sanctions on several Syrians for allegedly producing and smuggling the drug. (JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images)

The trade allegedly has strong ties to Assad and his associates, as well as the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon, a key ally.

According to British estimates, the Captagon industry is worth $57 billion to Assad, and has been a major source of revenue with Syria’s conflict now in its 13th year. Assad’s brutal crackdown on protests in 2011 led to his global isolation. His forces were accused of torture, bombing civilian infrastructure, and using chemical weapons with support of allies Russia and Iran.

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The EU also imposed sanctions on private security companies operating in Syria and people working for them. “These companies also act as shell companies for regime-affiliated militias and support them though activities such as the recruitment of members,” the statement said.

The bloc’s Syria sanctions now include 322 people and 81 entities.

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