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November 02, 2017

Philadelphia officials seize $18,000 of khat en route to Minnesota

Drugs Customs
110217_KhatCBP Source/U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Four express international parcels of stimulant drug khat seized in Philadelphia on Oct. 25, 2017. The parcels were sent from Germany with a final destination in Minnesota.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials in Philadelphia last week intercepted four suspicious parcels containing the stimulant drug khat in a shipment destined for Minnesota, authorities announced on Thursday.

The leafy green, chewable plant, generally grown in the Arabian Peninsula, was packaged in Frankfurt, Germany and intended for a recipient in Minneapolis.

CBP's National Targeting Center, a national security and counterterrorism unit, assisted Philadelphia officials in flagging and identifying the contents of the parcels on October 25. 

Investigators found about 68 pounds of khat distributed across the four parcels, with a total street value of about $18,000.

“Khat remains illegal to import into the United States and so CBP officers will continue to seize khat when we encounter it. Drug interdiction at our nation’s borders is one way in which CBP helps to keep our communities safe," said Joseph Martella, Acting CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia.

The World Health Organization classified khat, whose two main components are cathine and cathinone, as a drug of abuse in 1980. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers it a schedule 1 narcotic when its leaves are freshly picked, placing the drug in the most restrictive federal category.

Last month's seizure marks the region's second interdiction of khat in 2017. In February, Philadelphia officials found nearly 97 pounds of the drug concealed inside bags of herbal hair dye. That same month, Pittsburgh officials 110 pounds of khat disguised in similar packaging.

No arrests have been made in last week's seizure and an investigation remains ongoing.