"Just like Europe and the U.S. export terrorism to us, we sell them drugs," Lebanese drug lord Ali Nasri Shamas boasts in the opening statement of a BBC documentary that was released earlier this month.
Shamas, a notorious dealer turned news star, has become the go-to reference for Lebanon's hashish trade.
But it didn't take long till the Lebanese Army raided three homes owned by him in Boudai, eastern Lebanon, a security source who talked to The Daily Star said on Tuesday.
General Ghassan Chamseddine, head of Lebanon's drug enforcement unit, previously told the BBC that the Syrian war has left the Lebanese authorities with limited resources, preventing them from cracking down on large-scale drug traders.
But, the Lebanese Army announced this week that it had conducted raids on the homes of several wanted men in Baalbeck. However, Shamas was nowhere to be found.
Drugs and weapons were confiscated from his estates, as he faces "several hundred charges for drug trading, owning unlicensed weapons, among other violations," a security source told The Daily Star.
Shamas was recently featured in a BBC Pop-Up Documentary, in which he proudly gave a tour of his luxurious house, heavy weaponry and hashish production facilities. He also admitted to murdering several people and claimed to have fought ISIS in a nearby village.
With 130 hectares of hash fields in the Bekaa Valley and over 50 employees at his service, Shamas is considered one of Lebanon's biggest and most prolific cannabis dealers in Lebanon, according to the BBC.
He says that he makes 1 to 1.5 million dollars in profits every year, with his exports reaching Europe and the United States. Shamas is thus often compared to Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord and narco-terrorist.
Shamas started growing hash because of "the need to survive"
How did it all begin for the "Pablo of Lebanon"? "It was the need to survive that forced me into it," Shamas told the BBC, adding that poverty and weak law enforcement in the Bekaa region drove him into the trade.
"All I used to think about was going to school, graduating and getting a job. But there is poverty in this part of the country, the state is non-existent."
When talking about the government's crackdown on hash fields, Shamas says that hash growers will continue to fight for their trade, criticizing the government for destroying their source of living without providing an alternative.
Shamas was given the death sentence ... but he says he doesn't deserve to go to jail
Shamas boasts about killing six Syrian troops in a crackdown on his business, which ultimately got him a death sentence by Syrian authorities. "After I shot them, I went to have dinner and then I left," he tells the BBC with morbid apathy.
Shamas added that he does not think he deserves to go to jail for his acts, as he has only killed people "who did him wrong".
He justifies his business by saying: "Our politicians are illegal, they've taken authority by force, they're illegal. We're legal," adding that drug dealers would not have resorted to such sources of income had the state supplied adequate alternatives.
Lebanon’s politicians are the country’s number 1 cannabis consumers and traders.
Shamas credits his booming business to rampant corruption in the country, as he recounts how he bribed his way to exporting his illegal produce around the world.
"The entire government is a broker. 90% of the people in the authorities can be bribed," he says. After all, he lives in the country that ranks 136th out of 176 countries for corruption, according to the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.
An LBCI report released in August 2016 actually reveals that Lebanese politicians majorly profit from the country's cannabis industry, with a hash farmer claiming that most of his customers are Lebanese politicians.
Lebanon's hash industry bloomed during the civil war
Lebanon has made a name for itself in the global cannabis industry, becoming one of the top five producers in the world. Lebanese-grown hash, which is mostly cultivated in the fertile Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, has been dubbed "some of the best hash in the world".
Agriculture in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has been around for centuries, with Ottoman pashas encouraging the industry. At one point, hashish was even used as a form of currency.
After the production of hashish was outlawed in the 1920s, Lebanon's hash industry resurfaced during the 1975-1990 civil war. Now, two decades after the war, with the worsening economic conditions and weak law enforcement, the industry continues to flourish in the country.
The Syrian crisis has encouraged people in Lebanon to grow more cannabis, now that the Lebanese military is occupied with impeding a spillover from the Syrian war, leaving it unable to tackle big drug dealers.
According to The Telegraph, farmers say that the demand for cannabis rose by more than 50 percent between 2012 (the year after the Syrian civil war started) and 2014.
Are authorities punishing small-time drug consumers and turning a blind eye on the real criminals?
After the BBC documentary was released, many were quick to point out the hypocrisy that allows drug lords who are "backed by armed militiamen," such as Shamas, to openly talk about their crimes without fearing punishment, while small-time hash users face relentless prosecution.
Under the Lebanese law, drug use is a criminal offence that is punishable with a prison sentence ranging from three months to three years, plus a fine that starts at two million and can rise up to five million Lebanese Liras.
Lebanese authorities have been accused of unjust treatment of individuals who consume drugs for personal use, as they are often imprisoned without adequate evidence.
"They have a stereotype for an addict and there are suspicious places where addicts go out. If someone who fits the stereotype is found at such a place, then they are likely to be arrested," Sandy Mteirek, project coordinator at Skoun Lebanese Addictions Center, told Now Media.
Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt led the calls for legalization
Lebanon's Druze leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, has been vocal about his support for the legalization of weed, as that would help struggling farmers.
"It's time to allow hash to be grown and to overturn arrest warrants against people sought for doing so," he wrote on Twitter in 2014.