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NORFOLK -- The Hampton Roads-based Border Enforcement Security Task Force seized about 500 kilograms of khat at the Port of Norfolk over a two week period, officials said Thursday.

The narcotics worth over $200,000 were seized from a mail facility based on a tip.

'Once we went and checked that out, we determined this is a new drop place, and we waited to see how much would eventually arrive before the perpetrators caught on and stop sending it,' said Mark Laria, Area Port Director for Customs and Border Protection.

Khat is a stimulant drug derived from a shrub that is native to East Africa and southern Arabia. Leaves of the shrub are typically chewed and held in the cheek to release their stimulant chemicals. The chemicals in khat are similar to amphetamine and result in similar effects in the brain and body, although less potent.

'These enforcement actions demonstrate how law enforcement agencies working together can and will disrupt and dismantle smuggling organizations' efforts to bring their illicit goods into the United States,' said Homeland Security Special Agent Scot R. Rittenberg.

The Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) was formed in July 2011 and is comprised of officers and agents from ten federal, state and local agencies including HSI, CBP and the U.S. Coast Guard.

This was BEST's first major drug bust in a year and the first time khat has been intercepted in Hampton Roads.

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