A corruption case rocked the Interior Ministry in Damascus last week and prompted Interior Minister General Mohammad Rahmoun to make changes in his ministry, less than two months after replacing senior officers.
Ongoing investigations with Maj. Gen. Raed Khazim, Director of the Anti-Narcotics Department, and a number of officers, have revealed their involvement in replacing narcotics with non-narcotics to clear drug traffickers and criminals, following the seizure of 83 kilograms of cocaine.
According to unofficial Syrian media close to the regime, investigations showed the involvement of officers of the interior ministry in overseeing the cultivation of cannabis in secret places. They were detained in Adra central prison pending investigation.
Syrian cannabis trade has been active during the war. Media activists in the opposition accuse the militias of the Lebanese Hezbollah and the military security branch of smuggling drugs and cannabis from the Bekaa in Lebanon to Syria through the border areas of Qalamoun in the Damascus countryside.
The opposition also accuses the regime’s militias of promoting narcotics among school students. Drug pills and cannabis are even sold publicly on the streets. They also confirm the involvement of influential regime figures and Hezbollah in promoting drugs in Syria.
Drugs are an important financial resource for Hezbollah, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Human rights sources following up the case in Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that the defendants face corruption charges of more than 4 billion Syrian pounds (6.5 million dollars), worth 83 kilograms of cocaine, which were confiscated by the Drug Enforcement Authority.
During their arrest, the cocaine powder was replaced with flour to clear the defendants, who include government officials.