World News

Woman, Around 80, Is Arrested at Beirut Airport for Cocaine Smuggling

Posted December 22, 2017 7:17 p.m. EST

BEIRUT — A woman who is around 80 was arrested at Beirut’s international airport on Friday after trying to smuggle about 68 pounds of cocaine, according to government officials and state media in Lebanon, which called the illicit operation the largest in recent memory.

Lebanon’s National News Agency said Friday that customs officials at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut found the cocaine “hidden within the luggage of an elderly Venezuelan passenger who is about 80 years old, coming from Venezuela to Beirut via Paris.”

The news agency, which cited a statement from the Finance Ministry, also reported that two internal security officers had been arrested, apparently for trying to escort the woman through customs. It did not identify any of the three suspects.

The finance minister, Ali Hassan Khalil, said on Twitter that it was the country’s “largest cocaine smuggling operation.” He also said the government’s approach to drug trafficking was “strict and in no way lenient,” and he urged travelers “to take more care during this holiday season.”

This was not the airport’s first brush with drug trafficking. In June, Assala Nasri, a Syrian pop singer, was detained after security officials found a small amount of cocaine in her makeup bag, according to An-Nahar, a Lebanese newspaper. She was soon released.

And in 2015, five Saudi nationals, including a member of the royal family, Prince Abdul Mohsen bin Walid bin Abdulaziz, were arrested in Beirut for allegedly attempting to smuggle 2 tons of Captagon, an amphetamine popular in the Middle East.

He and nine others were charged with drug smuggling in November 2015, according to Reuters. His trial is proceeding in Lebanon.