In what is being called one of the biggest Captagon smuggling attempts in the history of the Beirut airport, a Saudi prince was held on charges of carrying 2 tons of narcotics in 40 suitcases on his private plane.
Abd al-Muhsen bin Walid bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud was detained at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport, along with four other people, when he was boarding the Riyadh-bound aircraft.
Apart from the massiveness of the drug bust, the fact that a member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia is allegedly involved in the case spurred international debate over the Gulf kingdom’s double standards on crime and punishment.
Saudi Arabia is notorious for handing out the death penalty over drug possession and trafficking, sometimes on the basis of mere suspicion. Most death sentences are carried out by beheading or by the firing squad, often in public.
“Executions for drug related offenses rose from just 4% in 2010 and 2011 to 28% in 2012 and 32% in 2013. By 2014 and June 2015 the percentage had risen to 47%,” Amnesty International stated in an August report.
The human rights group added nearly half of the people executed in the past 30 years were foreigners: “48.5% of people executed between January 1985 and June 2015 - 1,072 people - were foreign nationals, who make up around 33% of Saudi Arabia’s population of approximately 30 million.”
However, when it comes to Saudi royals committing or accused of similar crimes in other countries, they usually get away with it – thanks to the diplomatic protection provided by Riyadh.
Years before the Beirut arrest, Prince Nayef Bin Sultan Bin Fawwaz Al-Shaala allegedly smuggled 1,980 kilograms (4,400 pounds) of cocaine on his private jet in 1999 from Caracas, Venezuela, to Paris, France. Although he escaped trial using his diplomatic immunity, the prince was convicted in absentia in 2007. While his whereabouts are unknown, it’s believed he may be living in Saudi Arabia.
In a more recent and well-documented example of how Saudi royals easily get away with accusations of heinous crimes abroad unscathed, Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, arrested on suspicion of forced oral copulation at a Beverly Hills compound and allegedly raping as many as five women, escaped felony charges last week.
Taking the aforementioned cases – and many others – into consideration, it wouldn’t be a sweeping assertion that Prince Abd al-Muhsen bin Walid bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud will mostly likely be let off the hook.
Also, the fact that Saudi Arabia pays billions to buy military equipment for Lebanon is a strong indication that Beirut will probably not be too harsh with the Saudi prince.