Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saudi Arabia: Awash in Cash...and Meth

In an earlier post, I quoted from an article by Mike Davis, and I reproduce one bit again:

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors, whose total gross domestic product has almost doubled in just three years, are awash in liquidity: $2.4 trillion in banks and investment funds...

Does the fact that Saudi Arabia is loaded with cash have anything to do with the fact that, according to the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), "Saudi Arabia accounted for 28 per cent of all global amphetamine seizures in 2006"? (Financial Times, June 27).

The report in the Financial Times continues:

The quantities impounded in the kingdom started to rise sharply in 2004 and reached 12.3 tonnes in 2006. "This is equivalent to the sum of all UK seizures - the biggest amphetamine market in Europe - from 2000 to 2006," the report said. A further two tonnes of amphetamines destined for Saudi Arabia were seized in neighbouring Oman.

Antonio Maria Costa, the UN agency's executive director, said his organisation was talking to the Saudi government about the trend, which appeared to have continued into last year.

"If you are asking me for an explanation, I don't have it. I'm very perplexed," Mr Costa said.

"Assuming that the efficiency of law enforcement doesn't change very much over a short time, it suggests that this had been mostly for local consumption."

You can check out the UNODC's World Drug Report for 2008 here. It provides these additional details: "Amphetamine tablets for the Near and Middle East have typically been produced in Southeast Europe (Bulgaria and Turkey) and trafficked and marketed as Captagon to Near and Middle East countries. Saudi Arabia is the largest such market in the region. Captagon typically transits over land through Turkey, Syria, and Jordan before arriving in Saudi Arabia."

Meanwhile, this report from Syria, courtesy The caption accompanying this AP photo by Ola al-Rifai reads as follows:

Syrians are seen chanting at a rally in downtown Damascus,Syria, Monday, April 21, 2008, to protest Saudi Arabia's beheading of two Syrians on Friday after being charged on drug trafficking and called for handing over the prisoners to Syria. Hundreds of Syrians are being held in Saudi Arabia on charges of drug trafficking and their families and relatives in Damascus complained that most of them were initially sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the verdicts were abruptly changed to death. They hold banners which read: Our sons in Saudi Arabian prisons are subject to oppression and exaggerated verdicts. Their heads are being cut off without justice.

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