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Cairo: A Saudi court has sentenced two Arab expatriates and a Saudi citizen to a total of 55 years on charges of smuggling and dealing in drugs, Saudi prosecutors said, as the kingdom is pursuing a relentless crackdown on narcotics trafficking.

The prime defendant was handed down 25 years in prison while the two others were given a 15-year sentence each.

The court also ordered the trio to pay fines totaling SR300,000 and deporting the two expatriates from the kingdom after serving their terms, the prosecutors added.

The three-member ring had been charged with bringing and receiving 342,000 Captagon drug pills from abroad stashed inside a cargo arriving at the King Khaled airport in Riyadh.

Investigations showed that the ring leader, who is an expatriate, had travelled outside the kingdom at the time of the shipment’s arrival to avoid being caught until the two others took delivery of it.

Security agencies in the kingdom kept a close watch on the shipment until the ring leader returned to the kingdom where he and the accomplices were caught red-handed.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has thwarted a series of attempts to smuggle drugs into the country as part of what is dubbed as the “war on drugs”.

Last month, Saudi anti-drug police said they had seized 3.8 million amphetamine tablets in a swoop in Riyadh.

Eleven suspects – eight expatriates and three Saudis – were arrested in connection to the haul, said Major Marwan Al Hazami, the spokesman for the Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control.

They included seven Syrians and a Nepali national. The arrests were made in the Saudi cities of Riyadh, Mecca, Al Qasim, Ha’il and Al Jouf, according to the official.

Also in October, Saudi customs authorities said they had foiled a bid to smuggle around 932,980 Captagon pills in a pomegranate shipment.

The haul was uncovered at the Saudi Duba port where the cargo coming from outside the kingdom had undergone customs procedures, the Saudi Zaka, Tax and Customs Authority (Zatca) reported.

Two would-be recipients were arrested in connection with the attempt.

In July, Saudi Arabia’s anti-drug police said they had thwarted in cooperation with their Omani counterparts an attempt to smuggle over 6 million amphetamine tablets hidden in a shipment of pastry, citrus and nuts.

Drug smuggling and trafficking is an offence punishable by up to death in Saudi Arabia.