Lebanon: Drug traders thrive while good citizens are punished

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Al-Akhbar Management

(Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Hassan Chakrani

Published Thursday, February 27, 2014

There is no argument about Lebanon's place in the world of drugs. From production to distribution, networks with regional and international links are thriving. The question is how to address consumption and trade in a country where the courts punish those who expose the big players, their children, and the judges protecting them.

While the coca plant, which produces the main ingredient in cocaine, is only widely grown in three countries, the expensive white powder, which it produces, does not know any borders, travelling through rugged and sometimes mysterious routes. The product is transported from the rural areas of Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia through complex operations in various directions, to stop where the demand is booming. There are many ways for the drug to travel from Latin America to businessmen, artists, politicians, and the rising middle class in the center and peripheries of Asia.

According to figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the stimulant drug market is expanding in the direction of Asian countries,"Cocaine has long been perceived as a drug for the affluent. There is some evidence which, though inconclusive, suggests that his perception may not be entirely groundless, all other factors being equal. Nonetheless, the extent of its use is not always led by the pocket."

This is where Lebanon comes in. The country has a complex sociological and institutional relationship with all the products of the drug kingdom, from production to brokering to transport and distribution.

There is no argument about Lebanon's position on the international drug map. Lebanon was classified as one of the "main countries mentioned as a source country of cannabis resin between 2002 and 2011." According to the UN, it falls in the 4th position after Morocco, Afghanistan, and India, and directly ahead of Pakistan.

In 2011 alone, Lebanese authorities confiscated three amphetamine production labs, in addition to two captagon-producing labs. Ever since, the volume of business generated by trade in such products became apparent. In addition to its use in the Gulf, it became one of the main stimulants for fighters in Syria. The seizure of trucks with captagon in their chassis showed the thirst for these products in the Syrian market. (The UN notes that the Middle and Near East witness the majority of drug busts around the world).

It seems Middle Eastern routes are becoming more and more important in terms of transportation, especially for cocaine. UNODC, in its latest report issued in 2013, indicates that "limited but non-negligible amounts of cocaine have also been seized in the Syrian Arab Republic, Lebanon and, notably, Israel, which registered an increase in 2011; hence a link between this emerging route [to Europe] and the Near and Middle East cannot be excluded."

In terms of demand, the popularity of drugs in Lebanon is not a secret. This led to a situation in which the judiciary is willing to gamble its transparency and credibility to protect trafficking networks linked with important political and economic figures. The question here is not the hashish fine, which has become a foolish excuse to arrest young men and women. It is the question of huge operations involving the sale of cocaine.

Other figures from UNODC indicate that 1.2 percent of young Lebanese said they used cocaine at least once in the past year. While such data could be convoluted and scientifically controversial, the picture becomes clearer when compared to other countries.

On this Lebanon records a relatively high level, compared to other countries under studies. It is ahead of Israel and ties with Italy. The two countries flying high, according to this indicator, are Chile and Canada (see table below).

Cocaine might be a stimulant for those addicted to success and the fast life. However, it destroys and terminates the lives of many. The problem in Lebanon is that the protection of young men from addiction to this product often turns against the good guys.

A blatant example is the case of Al-Akhbar colleague Mohammed Nazzal in his famous report "Judges and Officers Protect a Drug Network." He revealed the magnitude of overlap between the authorities and the traffickers and that a judge was penalized due to her leniency with traffickers. However, she won a lawsuit against the activist journalist who contributed to uncovering the scheme.

The field cannot get whiter than this. It is one of those cases, which gives solace to Joaquin Guzman, one of the most powerful drug baron’s of our time, that his product will stay alive. As he starts plotting his second escape from prison – he succeed earlier using a laundry cart –, maybe our beloved state should start thinking about how to approach criminals and good citizens like Mohammed Nazzal.

At Least One "Snort" in the Past Year

Country Age Group Percentage
Chile 15-16 years old 4.9%
Canada 10-12 years old 4.4%
Bulgaria 14-19 years old 3.9%
Ghana 13-15 years old 2.9%
Argentina 15-16 years old 2.8%
Lebanon 15-16 years old 1.2%
Israel 12-18 years old 1%

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC (2013)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Drug traders have maximum influence and have support of some important personalities.Root should be find out instead of cutting branches and that's not being done.Traders of forbidden drugs which poison the human life should be punished severely.

The reason that Israeli intelligence and diplomats are being invited to countries throughout West Africa is due to their attempts to combat Lebanese-run drug rings. Drugs come from South America, transit to other regions through Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, among others.
Very interesting stories in local West African media about this.

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