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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

The Czech Republic is not a significant cultivator or producer of illicit narcotics or psychotropic substances. The country continues to be an active transshipment route for illicit drug smuggling originating mainly from the Balkan region, but also from the Middle East, South Asia and South America. A pattern emerging in 1998 is the transshipment of freight containers from northern ports in Poland and Germany using the Czech Republic as a diversionary route to Western Europe. Czech authorities employ strong operational links with foreign law enforcement counterparts to seize illegal narcotics and arrest major traffickers. Parliament passed a new law in 1998, which takes effect in January 1999, criminalizing possession of "all but small amounts" of drugs, wording that may exacerbate enforcement problems. The Czech cabinet has drafted for parliamentary action amendments to tighten its 1996 money-laundering law and related banking legislation, and applied in September 1998 for Financial Action Task Force membership. In February 1998, the U.S. and Czech Republic signed an updated multilateral legal assistance treaty; a bilateral customs mutual assistance agreement is also in force. The Czech Republic is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

The Czech Republic is primarily a transit point for illicit narcotics. Only one-fifth of the volume of illicit drugs in the Republic is consumed domestically, including by Western European "drug tourists" seeking cheaper prices. Kosovar Albanians dominate the illicit trade in the Czech Republic and typically employ Czech nationals to conduct local activities. Other nationalities active in trafficking are Turks, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Russians, Ukrainians, Colombians and other South Americans.

The Czech Republic has no coca cultivation. Cannabis production is not illegal unless it is produced in quantity for purposes of ingestion as marijuana. The Government regulates poppy cultivation, which is produced on considerable acreage as poppy seed is a typical ingredient in Czech cuisine. However, the Czech Republic is a source of precursors and essential chemicals for pharmaceutical manufacture. Czech law enforcement officials act expeditiously in cooperation with international partners to intercept illicit exports of precursors when made aware of cases. In 1998 the Czech National Anti-drug Headquarters (NAH), analogous to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), seized imports of precursors originating in Slovakia, Hungary and China. Pervitin, an inexpensive stimulant produced in clandestine Czech labs, is consumed largely by domestic abusers but is also exported, primarily to Germany but also as far as to Canada. Stricter precursor control regulations, newly-implemented in 1997 and administered by the Health and Trade Ministries, have helped the police to better identify and close small illicit labs; however, this has not abated an increase in the trade and abuse of synthetic drugs (including the methoxylated amphetamine MDMA, popularly known as "ecstasy").

Some Czech authorities estimate there are 15,000-20,000 addicts on hard drugs and 30,000-80,000 chronic drug users out of a total Czech population of about 10 million (previous estimates of 200,000 users has been challenged by official Czech sources). Methodologies for calculating drug addiction have changed in recent years, making annual comparisons problematic. Among secondary school students, 24 percent report experimenting with illicit drugs, and five to ten percent are regular users. Social welfare experts are alarmed by the ever-lower age of those seeking drug treatment. the largest group of drug users is in the 15-19 age group. Pervitin is the most abused substance and marijuana use is prevalent. Heroin is readily available in all Czech urban areas; its abuse has increased and it is nearly always ingested intravenously. Cocaine abuse is low at a level of one percent of total drug abusers, the same as in 1997.

An extensive network of state-supported anti-drug coordinators is established in 81 districts (comparable to U.S. counties). These district officials collect information on the local drug situation, develop working level contacts with all governmental and non-governmental bodies involved in counternarcotics work, and coordinate activities in the district, including disseminating demand reduction materials for print and broadcast media and schools. Public and non-governmental health treatment centers and psychiatric support offices are extensively available and approach western standards. About 1,500 hard-core addicts are registered for full- time treatment and about 1,000 persons "drop by" monthly. Because "drop byes" are anonymous, accurate figures of new or repeat users are difficult to determine. The Czech Defense Ministry has intensified demand reduction education for its recruits. Progress in implementing a modernized demand reduction curriculum in all secondary and primary schools has been stymied by rivalries between the Czech Ministries of Health and Education. The curriculum development has been extensively supported by American and British technical assistance funded by the U.S. and UK governments.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives. Three changes of government since November 1997 have weakened the authority and effectiveness of the Czech National Drug Commission (NDC). While the NDC's small staff remains on the payroll, it took four months until December 1, 1998 for the new government to name a new NDC Director. The NDC coordinates national policy among the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Welfare, Interior, Justice, Finance and Defense. In January 1998, the NDC issued a comprehensive national strategy for 1998-2000. Individual ministries are proceeding to implement aspects of the strategy, which expands responsibility for both demand reduction and punitive measures beyond national authorities to the regional and municipal level. In June 1998, the Parliament voted to override President Havel's veto of a drug law criminalizing possession of "all but small quantities" of narcotics and psychotropic substances. The law goes into effect in January 1999. The presidential veto was exercised to protest the ambiguous quantity definition. Both law enforcement and social service authorities seek high level policy guidelines on a "reasonable standard" for possession to better deal with first-time youth offenders and to avoid discouraging addicts from seeking help at treatment centers for fear of arrest.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Despite continued austere budgets, in-service police training has expanded and led to more municipal police handling arrests, fulfilling a government objective to disseminate expertise beyond the national police and customs agents. Multilateral cooperation has deepened considerably, as shown by higher arrest rates of Czech nationals abroad and prosecutions of foreign nationals in the Czech Republic on narcotics offenses. There has been no major change in the structure, leadership, effectiveness, or manpower of law enforcement agencies. Devolving responsibility to the municipal and regional level has enhanced the ability of specialized national units to concentrate their efforts on transnational organized crime elements and major traffickers. In the first ten months of 1998, the National Anti-drug Headquarters, the specialized counternarcotics police unit, confiscated 274.9 kilograms of heroin, 0.3 kilogram of cocaine, 75.4 kilograms of amphetamines and 10.45 kilograms of ephedrine.

Other Legislation and Agreements. The Czech Republic does not have asset forfeiture legislation in effect, nor does it have legislation providing for the sharing of seized narcotics assets with other governments. Czech law enforcement officials favor passage of such legislation but the topic has not been a priority as the Czech government addresses other legislative reforms required to complete the transition to a market economy and to prepare for EU accession. The Czech Republic participates in and adheres to the standards of the multilateral chemical reporting initiative for precursor control, having strengthened domestic implementing regulations in 1997.

Bilateral Agreements. The USG and the Czech Republic signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in early 1998. The MLAT was ratified by the U.S. in January 1999. Negotiations are underway to update the 1925 Extradition Treaty. A bilateral Customs Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty has been in effect since 1991.

Corruption. U.S. sources show no evidence of narcotics-related public corruption in the Czech Republic.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral programs. Czech authorities actively cooperate and consult with numerous USG agencies to counter narcotics trafficking, customs interdiction, and money laundering. On the basis of joint efforts with U.S. DEA and/or U.S. Customs, Czech authorities in 1998 executed or contributed to seizures of 299 kilograms of cocaine, 216 kilograms of heroin, 6,000 kilograms of hashish and 12.9 tons of marijuana (the last of these a joint operation with Slovak authorities). In close cooperation with the U.K., the U.S. will continue assisting the Czech Health and Education Ministries on methods for updating and expanding nation-wide school curricula on drug abuse prevention. In October 1998, the U.S. Federal Reserve and U.S. Customs conducted an advanced seminar on methods to combat money laundering for Czech police, prosecutors, judges and commercial bankers. Czech officials and bankers who have undergone previous U.S. training are disseminating in turn their knowledge and experience at locally-organized seminars.

The Road Ahead. Future U.S. efforts will focus on further enhancing Czech law enforcement capabilities, particularly via a more cooperative, task- force approach to counter organized crime and to enhance border controls on people and goods. We will also promote demand reduction initiatives by the non-governmental sector.

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