Abu Dhabi: Around 45 million Captagon pills worth an estimated Dh450 million were seized last year, Colonel Saeed Al Suwaidi, Director General of the Anti-Narcotics Department at the Ministry of Interior, told an international forum held in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

“Smuggling of Captagon and crystal methamphetamine into the UAE increased last year by 280 per cent compared with 2015, with police authorities across the country seizing 45 million Captagon tablets in 2016,” Colonel Al Suwaidi told the Unity for Security Forum, held under the patronage of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Colonel Al Suwaidi added that the arrests of suspected drug traffickers last year recorded a 120 per cent increase to 390, from 173 in 2015.

Captagon is the brand name for a synthetic stimulant called fenethylline that was invented in the early 1960s. It was later banned worldwide but is popular among some people who use it recreationally to stay awake or as a weight-loss aid. It can cause death.

The Interpol forum, organised in partnership with the UAE Government, and the Interpol Foundation for a Safer World, brought together senior government officials and representatives from the private sector, to address common issues and identify responsibilities in combating future security threats focused around seven Interpol projects on counter-terrorism, cybercrime, cultural heritage, vulnerable communities, vehicle crime, drugs and illicit goods.

Colonel Al Suwaidi suggested that the GCC region was apparently the target of smugglers of the amphetamine-based drugs. He added the UAE also detected 500 drug-related money transfers from drug abusers in the UAE to drug dealers in Asian countries.

According to the Interpol, the market for Captagon across the Middle East is large, with record seizures of the amphetamine-based substance in recent years. The number of seized methamphetamine laboratories in the region has gone up consistently for the past five years.

Colonel Hamad Rashid Al Za’abi, deputy director of the Federal Investigation Department, Ministry of Interior, addressed the escalating challenges connected to human trafficking and child exploitation, with the aim of disrupting the organised networks behind these crimes.

Colonel Al Za’abi said that human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar form of international organised crime, which affects every region in the world. “Victims are recruited and trafficked between countries using deception, threats or force. In the majority of cases, women, men and children are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labour,” he said, calling on the Interpol and the international community to focus on source countries to create awareness among potential victims.

Dr Susan L. Bissell, director of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, UN International Children’s Emergency Fund, agreed that educating vulnerable communities can effectively reduce violence against them.

Dr Bissell told the forum more than 1 billion children — half of all the children in the world — are victims of violence every year.

Dr Bissell added that around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.