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Targeting Assad's Illicit Drug Revenue

(FILE) A customs officer displays confiscated Captagon pills.
(FILE) A customs officer displays confiscated Captagon pills.

“Syria has become a global leader in the production of highly addictive Captagon,” said OFAC Director Andrea Gacki.

Targeting Assad's Illicit Drug Revenue
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The United States, in coordination with the United Kingdom, has imposed sanctions on individuals and companies supporting the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad through the illegal drug trade, in particular, the production and distribution of the dangerous amphetamine Captagon. The Captagon trade is estimated to be a billion-dollar criminal enterprise.

“Syria has become a global leader in the production of highly addictive Captagon, much of which is trafficked through Lebanon,” said Andrea Gacki, Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Assets Control.

Many of the individuals designated on March 28, including under the Caesar Act, are either family members or close allies of Syrian President al-Assad. Two cousins, Samer Kamal al-Assad and Wassim Badi al-Assad, were sanctioned for their involvement in the production and distribution of Captagon and other drugs.

Khalid Qaddour is a Syrian businessman and close associate of Maher al-Assad, the brother of Bashar al-Assad, who was sanctioned by the United States for his leading role in the regime’s escalation of violence against the Syrian people. Qaddour is reportedly responsible for managing revenues generated by illicit activities, including the production and trafficking of Captagon.

Also sanctioned was Imad Abu Zureik, a former Free Syrian Army commander now leading a Syrian Military Intelligence–affiliated militia, with an important role enabling drug production and smuggling in southern Syria.

Two Lebanese nationals with close ties to Hezbollah - Noah Zaitar, a known arms dealer and drug smuggler, and Hassan Muhammad Daqqou, dubbed by the media “The King of Captagon,” - were designated as well, as were two of Daqqou’s companies.

The new sanctions come at a time when several Arab countries have indicated a willingness to normalize relations with the Assad regime. During a recent UN Security Council briefing on the Political and Humanitarian situation in Syria, Acting U.S. Deputy Representative to the UN Jeffrey DeLaurentis cautioned that Assad is “still the brutal dictator whose regime repeatedly used chemical weapons against the Syrian people...His regime has conducted attacks on civilians…and has detained, tortured, or murdered hundreds of thousands of people. Assad is also flooding the region with Captagon, spreading addiction and criminality.”

As State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel declared, “The United States will continue to coordinate with our allies and partners to target traffickers of illicit drugs and those who provide support to the Syrian regime’s vicious war.”