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1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
United States Department of State
February 26, 1999


I. Summary

Croatian authorities have focused their concerns on the increase in drugs transiting Croatia concomitant with the opening of borders with Bosnia and Serbia. Ministry of Interior officials are particularly concerned about the post-war rejuvenation of Balkan route. The Ministry of Interior's narcotics division has increased resources devoted to counternarcotics, but still faces significant shortfalls in equipment needed to identify drug shipments. The parliament last year approved laws which went into effect January 1 of this year that remove legal impediments to undercover investigations, use of controlled deliveries, and the technical collection of evidence (i.e. audio and video recording), and that improve the Government of Croatia's (GOC) ability to combat money laundering. A new law enacted this year increased the maximum sentence for convicted dealers, and drug legislation is pending in parliament which would tighten control over precursor chemicals. The narcotics division continues to follow an action plan and a national strategy to combat drug abuse and has an ongoing training program for counternarcotics officials. Croatia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Croatia, with its extensive coastline, geographic location, and limited resources for patrolling its coast, offers great possibilities for transshipping narcotics. Variants of the Balkan route crossed a large part of Croatian territory prior to the war in the former Yugoslavia. With the consolidation of peace in the region, narcotics traffickers are increasingly using the southern portion of the route from turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia and are using routes through Croatia to western European markets. The amount of narcotics transiting Croatia from Serbia has increased with liberalization of border traffic. Officials are concerned that the increase in transit traffic will spillover into the local market.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives. The government's reorganization of the criminal police within the Ministry of Interior (MUP) has resulted in a more effective counternarcotics capacity. The national drug division has overseen the work of smaller drug divisions and units in every police department throughout the country. The drug division continues to maintain cooperative relationships with InterPol, and counterparts in Slovenia, Italy, Germany, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, and the United States. Law enforcement contacts expanded with several other nations as well. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for maintaining and implementing a counternarcotics action plan which focuses on interdiction and demand reduction. The MUP also assists in the implementation--with the ministries of education and health--of the national strategy to combat drug abuse.

Accomplishments. In 1998, the parliament approved laws which went into effect January 1 1999, removing legal impediments on undercover investigations, use of controlled deliveries, and the technical collection of evidence (i.e. audio and video recording), and improving the Government of Croatia's (GOC) ability to combat money laundering. A new law enacted in 1999 increases the maximum sentence for narcotics related crimes from 20 to 40 years. Additional drug enforcement legislation which would tighten control over precursor chemicals is pending in parliament and passage is expected next year.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The number of narcotics seizures during the year increased substantially to 4,114 over 3,331 in 1997. In November, police in Split made the year's largest heroin seizure and arrested a suspect considered to be the leader of one of the largest drug networks in Dalmatia. Quantities of drugs seized in 1998 include: over 49 kilograms of heroin; 2 kilograms of hashish; over 20 tons of marijuana, over 500 kilograms of cocaine; around 8000 tablets of ecstasy; and 800 grams of amphetamines. The MUP has an ongoing program to identify areas where marijuana is cultivated (all production serves the local market). The effort is complicated by the fact that cultivation occurs country- wide and plots are very small. For example, the largest plot of marijuana discovered to date was located near Karlovac and contained only about 10, 000 plants.

Corruption. There have been serious allegations of corruption within senior levels of the ruling party and government. However, allegations linking these officials to narcotics-related corruption have not been substantiated. Ministry of Interior officials have reported at least one case where legal proceedings were pursued against a U.S. trained counternarcotics officer who was implicated in a shipment of a half-ton of cocaine across the northern border near Cakovec earlier this year.

Agreements and Treaties. Croatia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The 1920 Treaty with Yugoslavia governs extradition between Croatia and the US. The GOC stated publicly this summer that it would like to become an active member of the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP) for central and southeastern Europe and is working with the UNDCP on a joint two-year project to modernize drug control methods, laws, and measures for decreasing demand. Pending passage of a new narcotics law, the GOC uses its adherence to the 1988 Vienna document as the basis for prosecuting those suspected of trafficking in precursor chemicals.

Drug Flow/Transit. With the consolidation of peace in the region, the GOC opened several border crossing points with northern Bosnia, and regularized the status of border crossing points with western Bosnia and Serbia. MUP officials have commented that they lack funds to purchase equipment (particularly equipment to x-ray truck traffic) to adequately search traffic from Serbia at the busiest crossing at Bajakovo. The volume of traffic transiting the Zagreb/Belgrade highway increased dramatically over the year, although the GOC maintained adequate customs controls along the Serbian border. There was a large increase in the volume of cocaine transshipping the Dalmatian seaports, particularly the port of Rijeka. There has also been an upsurge in drugs transiting Bosnia, particularly in conjunction with traffic in stolen vehicles. Domestic organized crime gangs allegedly are cooperating with Kosovar and Albanian traffickers to move narcotics through Croatia to Europe and possibly onward to the US.

Demand Reduction. The Ministry of Health, with primary responsibility for domestic programs, has established some demands reduction programs, albeit with limited resources. The Ministry of Education requires drug education programs in primary and secondary schools. The state-run national medical system also offers treatment programs for drug users. The Catholic Church is endeavoring to open drug treatment clinics, but claims it has been stymied by the lack of publicly available and reliable information on drug use. According to the head of Croatia's National Drug Prevention Program, the number of drug abuses in Croatia seeking medical help is increasing at a rate of about 20 percent annually. Addicts undergoing treatment typically cite frustration with the quality of life, poor employment prospects and social upheaval resulting from the breakup of Yugoslavia as reasons for turning to drugs. Croatia's drug "czar" further noted that heroin seizures last year (about 49 k8ilograms according to police sources) represent only an estimated 5 percent of the total needed to supply the demand of addicts.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. The USG continues to urge increased attention by the GOC to the drug issue and has provided training for MUP officers. Two MUP officers received training from U.S. law enforcement agencies this year and three officers attended training in Canada. Additionally, eight MUP officers attended International Law Enforcement Academy training in Budapest. Liaisons between the DEA, FBI and other USG agencies with narcotics responsibilities and their GOC counterparts continued to be excellent.

The Road Ahead.

As travel restrictions between Croatia and its neighbors ease, the increase in drug trafficking through Croatia is likely to continue, expanding opportunities for organized crime and money laundering. The USG will continue to encourage the GOC to expand its drug control activities and implement counternarcotics legislation. We also hope to train additional Croatian counternarcotics officials and solidify our ties with the GOC institutions combating narcotics. For its part, Croatia intends to find more opportunities to secure training for its officers and continue equipping counternarcotics units and police labs. Given the GOC's limited financial resources it is also seeking to increase cooperation and information exchanges with neighboring and drug origin countries to counter the flow of narcotics before they arrive at the border. Domestically, the MUP is working to attack the growing problem of domestic narcotics smuggling.

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