| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Lebanon rushes to fill the gap with Saudis caused by the latest smuggling opreration.

The decision taken by Saudi Arabia to ban the entry or transit of Lebanese vegetables and fruits from its territory as of Sunday, after thwarting a smuggling attempt, Lebanese officials rushed to denounce the operation.

The Minister of Agriculture in the caretaker government, Abbas Mortada, saw that the Saudi ban on imports of vegetables and fruits from his country was a great loss, explaining that the value of these Lebanese exports to Saudi Arabia was 24 million dollars annually. He confirmed to Reuters that the matter is very dangerous, especially if it negatively affects exports to the rest of the Gulf countries that may take similar measures.

On his part, The Minister of Interior and Municipalities in the caretaker government, Mohamed Fahmy, told Reuters that Lebanon is ready to cooperate with all countries to combat drug smuggling after the Saudi ban. He stressed that Lebanon has made strenuous efforts to combat drug trafficking, but smugglers sometimes achieve successes. “Drug-related crime is an epidemic that requires the exchange of information between the security services of the countries concerned,” he added

Earlier, Saudi Arabia demanded that the Lebanese authorities provide documented guarantees and take measures to stop the systematic drug smuggling. The Saudi Ministry of Interior confirmed that it would follow up the consignments and other shipments coming from Lebanon, and that it would also consider the possibility of taking similar measures regarding all consignments from Lebanon.

The spokesperson for the General Directorate for Narcotics Control, Captain Muhammad Al-Najidi, confirmed that the proactive security follow-up of criminal networks activities that undermine the smuggling of narcotic substances to Saudi Arabia resulted in the thwarting of an attempt to smuggle 2,466,563 amphetamine tablets, which were followed up and seized, in coordination with the General Authority of Customs, In the King Abdulaziz port in Dammam, the narcotic tablets were hidden inside a shipment of pomegranate fruit coming from Lebanon.

The spokesperson for the General Directorate of Narcotics Control stated that the persons involved in the attempt to smuggle it were arrested in Hafar Al-Batin governorate, they are  5 accused, of whom 4 are citizens and a migrant.

Capt. Al-Nujaidi confirmed that those affiliated  had been arrested, and all preliminary legal measures were taken against them, and were  referred to the Public Prosecution, according to “Al-Arabiya”.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates informed the Saudi Embassy today, Friday, about the Saudi decision before announcing it, which stipulates banning the entry of vegetables and fruits from Lebanon to its territories. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Charbel Wehbe referred the latter to Senior Officials.

The Ministry emphasized that “smuggling drugs in containers or trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables from Lebanon to the outside is an act punishable by Lebanese law, and that drug smuggling and shipment harms the economy, the Lebanese farms and the reputation of Lebanon.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates called on the Lebanese authorities to put their utmost efforts to control all smuggling operations by intensifying the activity of the security services and customs at the border crossings in light of the Lebanese laws that criminalize trafficking, smuggling and drug abuse, to prevent harm to innocent citizens, farmers, industrialists and the Lebanese economy.