Lebanon Top 5 : Smuggling Routes

Weapons cargo in tripoli port

1. Seaports

Beirut and Tripoli have the two main maritime entries to Lebanon with large number of containers getting in and out everyday. These locations remain the first choice for smugglers to operate easily in a less hassling environment, or in other words, that’s where the “legal” smuggling takes place. Money and the right connections can guarantee the transportation and delivery of the cargo using nothing but professional logistics and official permission. Therefore, smuggled goods come in large quantity or big size. Captagon machines, hard drugs, counterfeit medications, electronics, antiques, alcohol, tobacco, and many other items. In instance, the rush to the car dealing business in Lebanon was pointed out as a way for importing and exporting drugs hidden in cars that were kept in transit on the Lebanese territory. On the other hand, the traffic of weapons through the seaport became rare unlike the time during the civil war, but still, the last bust was done in Tripoli seaport in 2011 by the Lebanese Army, where they seized two containers full of weapons and ammunition coming from Libya. (Till this day, no clear investigation explained if the weapons were sent to the FSA in Syria or to a Lebanese group).

Beirut International Airport

2. Airport

The smuggling through Beirut airport is usually limited to small packages of high value. Items such as uncut diamonds, raw cocaine, gold, or amphetamine pills should be handled by a professional and trustful person. Although risky, it remains the fastest way of transportation, and its success is due to bribed customs officials or the use of diplomatic/special passports, whereas their luggage are never searched. Techniques vary and creativity plays a big role, goods are either concealed in a double layer luggage, swallowed, dissimulated in baby food, or simply attached to the body. The first smuggling scandal that happened at the Beirut Airport was in 1964, when 25 bazookas were found in boxes, and shipped from Europe to the famous jeweler William Kazan.

syrian lebanese border

3. Land Borders

Putting aside the sporadic hashish contraband between the southern population of Lebanon and Israelis, the Lebanese/Israeli border is calm compared with the Lebanese/Syrian border. Villages on the frontier got used to purchase all their goods from Syria and within minutes are back to Lebanon. Smuggled goods ranged from vegetables, fuel, cigarettes to weapons, people and drugs. The majority of the hashish production is exported to Europe via transit trucks, whereas a ton of cannabis is bought from the farmers for $ 150,000  to be sold later in Europe at a market price of 3 million euros, then these same trucks are used to import other illegal items back to Lebanon.

oil boats smuggling

4. Shipping / Oil boats

The maritime route remains one of the most used passage for smugglers. Lebanese coastal guards are still unable to monitor the 212 km of sea border, allowing many commercial ships and oil carriers to operate freely. Raids are only done on shipping boats based on previous intelligence; while others are ignored depending on the reputation of the company they represent in Lebanon. Usually, before docking on the main seaports of Beirut and Tripoli, large boats stop for a period of time in the international waters before being granted access to Lebanese waters. This setback gives the opportunity for smugglers to pick up their valuable cargo from onboard using speedboats.

5. Express / Freight Services

Although, small quantities of cheap medications and electronics are omitted by the Lebanese customs, this is the least successful method used, due to the scanning of goods at the dispatch and delivery locations.

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