ROME, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Italy's Finance Guard said Wednesday it has seized a "record" 14 tons of amphetamines being smuggled into the country aboard three containers in the port of the city of Salerno near Naples.
The illegal drugs -- in the form of 84 million pills with a street value of one billion euros (1.12 billion U.S. dollars) -- were stashed inside industrial paper cylinders in the containers, the Finance Guard said in a statement.
It's the "largest single seizure of amphetamines at a global level," the Finance Guard stated.
The pills were labeled "captagon," a controlled substance that has been produced in the Middle East since the 1990s, the statement said.
Captagon "has reappeared in terrorist hideouts -- such as, for example, in the 2015 (Islamic terrorist) attack on the Bataclan (concert hall) in Paris - and this is why it has been dubbed the IS (Islamic State terrorist group) drug or the Jihad (Islamic holy war) drug," the Finance Guard explained.
"It is well known that IS finances its terrorist activities ... through the traffic of synthetic drugs, which are mostly produced in Syria," according to the statement.
The Middle Eastern country, where a civil war has been raging since 2011, "has become the number one world producer of amphetamines in recent years," the Finance Guard said.
Captagon is currently sold throughout the Middle East and is "commonly used by combatants because it inhibits fear and pain," the statement said.
The Finance Guard said it is likely that "the production and distribution of synthetic drugs ground to a halt in Europe during the anti-coronavirus lockdown" and that as a result, drug traffickers turned to Syria to replenish their stocks.
The number of pills seized Wednesday can "satisfy a market the size of Europe," the Finance Guard said, adding that investigations are underway into mafia drug cartels that could be behind the smuggling attempt.
A part of the Economy Ministry, the Finance Guard is a militarized police force that fights financial crime, terrorist financing, smuggling, money laundering, cybercrime, fraud, and counterfeiting. It also deals with customs and patrols Italy's land and sea borders.