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Record amount of khat drug seized at airport

The shipments of the illegal substance khat came in parcels from the Arab peninsula and east Africa Keystone

Zurich customs officials say they have seized a record 4.4 tonnes of khat at Switzerland’s main airport over the past two weeks. 

This content was published on April 8, 2015 - 15:26
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The 495 deliveries from Kenya and Tanzania were labelled as henna dye, tea or spices. Inside the packages were dried leaves of khat, a plant grown mainly on the Arab peninsula and in east Africa, according to the Federal Customs Administration. 

The head of the customs office at Zurich airport, Heinz Widmer, said on Wednesday that the form of cover-up is a sign that organised crime is behind the shipments. 

Most parcels were destined for addresses in North America, Europe and Asia. Officials said about 150kg were meant for the illegal Swiss market. 

Previous khat confiscations involved fresh leaves, according to Widmer. 

Banned substance

European countries, including Switzerland, consider khat a dangerous drug as it can render consumers of the natural stimulant addicted and uncontrollable. 

The Swiss authorities said they acted on tip-offs from the authorities in neighbouring Germany and South Korea, which also seized considerable khat deliveries. 

Khat, which can be brewed as tea, smoked or chewed, has been banned in Switzerland since 1992. 

Last year, the Swiss authorities confiscated 1.6 tonnes of khat, almost 1.3 tonnes down on the previous year, according to an official statement in February.

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