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Lebanon Foils Medicine Smuggling Via Beirut Airport

Lebanon Foils Medicine Smuggling Via Beirut Airport

Wednesday, 7 October, 2020 - 07:00
A man, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, waits to receive medication from the pharmacy of the Amel NGO in Lebanon's southern coastal city of Tyre on July 22, 2020. JOSEPH EID/AFP

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces have foiled an attempt to smuggle, through the Rafik Hariri International airport, hundreds of boxes of medicines to Egypt.

The operation came at a time when Lebanon suffers from a shortage of medicine supply after the Central Bank announced a plan to lift subsidies over the dollar crisis gripping the country.

Head of the Syndicate of Pharmacists Ghassan Al-Amine told Asharq Al-Awsat that the price of medicine in Lebanon has “become the lowest” in the region for being sold at the exchange rate of LL1,500 to $1 while in the black market the Lebanese pound has reached above LL8,000.

“The low cost of medicine makes it more vulnerable for smuggling,” Al-Amine said.

On Tuesday, the ISF said in a statement that it successfully foiled an operation to smuggle suspicious quantities of medication to Egypt.

The detainees confessed they bought the medicines from different pharmacies in Lebanon.

The ISF said it later released the six suspects on bail.

Al-Amine explained that the shortage of medicine in the Lebanese market is not only caused by smuggling to other countries but because Lebanon has stopped importing large quantities of medicine.

He said that in the past two months, Lebanese people started to stockpile medicines fearing they will no longer be available or that prices will increase after the Central Bank said it would lift subsidies by the end of October.

He said importers have only enough stocks to last for 45 days. “This is why pharmacies are only selling medicines in small quantities,” he explained, warning from a worsening crisis in the coming months.

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