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Saudi Prince Reportedly Caught With Two Tons of Speed on Private Plane in Beirut

An anonymous Lebanese official said a Saudi prince and four other people were arrested on Monday at Beirut’s airport for attempting to smuggle amphetamines.
Des pilules de captagon. Photo via EPA.

A Saudi prince and four other people were arrested at Beirut's airport on Monday after they allegedly attempted to smuggle two tons worth of amphetamines onto the prince's private plane, a Lebanese official told the Associated Press.

The anonymous official did not offer additional details about the drug bust, but it was reportedly one of the largest in Lebanon's history. There are dozens of princes in the Saudi royal family, but the one arrested on Monday has not yet been identified.

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Illegal amphetamines — also known as speed or uppers — have surged in popularity across the Middle East in recent years, especially in Saudi Arabia, where authorities have seized more amphetamines than in any other country, according to the United Nation's Office of Crime and Drugs. In 2011, nearly 40 percent of the amphetamines seized in the world came from Saudi Arabia.

Almost all of the amphetamines seized in Saudi Arabia are in the form of Captagon pills, the brand name form of fenethylline, a synthetic stimulant used to treat attention deficit disorders.

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Captagon has been illegal in the county since 1986, but addiction rates have surged over the past decade, according to Time. Drugs are taboo in the conservative Muslim country, and treatment is not openly available or even discussed, contributing to the rise in addiction.

The amphetamines allegedly found on the Saudi prince's plane were said to be fenethylline.

Saudi Arabia's amphetamine problem has persisted despite the fact that the country has some of the harshest drug laws in the world. Drug use is punishable by death, often carried out through public beheadings, according to a recent report by Amnesty International. The vast majority of death sentences for crimes other than homicide in Saudi Arabia are for drug-related charges, including drug possession, according to Amnesty.

It's not immediately clear what punishment the prince will face if he is convicted.

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Correction: A previous version of this story referred ambiguously to "non-lethal death sentences." The story has been amended to reflect that the reference was to death sentences for non-lethal crimes.