Israeli TikTok star, 3 others arrested in France for trying to smuggle khat leaves

Four suspected of trying to bring 220 kilograms intro country; stimulant leaves are legal in Israel but not in Europe

Illustrative: Khat leaves (YouTube screenshot)
Illustrative: Khat leaves (YouTube screenshot)

An Israeli TikTok star was arrested in France this week along with three others, on suspicion of attempting to smuggle some 220 kilograms (480 lbs) of khat leaves into the country.

Chen Elkayam, who has some 60,000 followers on the social media platform, was stopped at Paris’s Orly Airport and is currently under arrest along with the others as local police investigate.

Though legal in Israel, the leaves are considered a drug in Europe and are illegal.

Khat leaves contain two amphetamines, cathinone and cathine. Among the positive effects are a sense of mild euphoria, increased alertness and relief from fatigue. However, they also present several health risks, including depression, irritability, increased blood pressure and heart rate, loss of appetite and insomnia.

The are no restrictions on khat’s sale or distribution in Israel and it is frequently used by the country’s Yemenite and Ethiopian communities.

In recent years Israeli organized crime groups have been paying travelers to smuggle khat leaves to European countries, where they can be sold for hefty sums.

A friend of one of those arrested told Channel 12: “Someone used them and tempted them to carry out the smuggling, claiming that it’s not a drug and nothing will happen to them. They believed the seller and now they’re screwed.”

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