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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

Developments during 1998 point to Estonia's increasing involvement in illegal drug trafficking. The arrest of an off-duty Estonian police officer in Helsinki and of two Estonian couriers with several kilograms of cocaine at Tallinn airport, together with other seizures of heroin at the borders and in the country, highlight how narcotics-related problems are increasing in Estonia. The country's growing affluence and economic integration with the world economy are reflected in significant increases of domestic demand for hard drugs. Estonia, which is party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and which enacted a strong law on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in 1997, likely will face growing difficulties controlling its expanding illegal drug market and trafficking.

II. Status of Country

Estonia's geographical position serves well as a conduit for smuggling illicit drugs from Central Europe and Russia to Western Europe. Frequent ferries, which yearly carry millions of tourists and both passenger and freight vehicles, link Estonia to Finland and Sweden. The volume of this ferry traffic, disgorging thousands of package-laden tourists at a time, makes it difficult for police to monitor possible trafficking. (As an indication of the scope of this problem, Estonia, with a population of less than 1.5 million, had over 10.5 million people crossing its borders during the first 11 months of 1998, an increase of more than one million over the same period a year ago.) Estonia thus is an attractive transit area for illicit drugs. In addition to ferries, small boats and yachts that ply the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland are being used for drug trafficking.

Estonian dealers and traffickers have established direct contacts with Colombian, Venezuelan and other Latin American sources of cocaine. This is evident by the arrest of four couriers and seizure of more than five kilograms of cocaine en route from the Caribbean island of Curacao to Estonia. Heroin and cannabis products from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Caucasian countries transit Estonia to Scandinavia and Western Europe. Police also report that amphetamines and other stimulants reach Estonia from Latvia, The Netherlands and Poland, and other drugs reach Estonia from Belarus, Ukraine and possibly Russia. Arrests in recent years have involved Estonians charged with organizing illegal drug shipments that never enter Estonia, but are directly shipped to a destination country. According to INTERPOL reporting, "Ecstasy", LSD and PCP are transported through the country to destinations in Finland and Sweden. INTERPOL reports that Moroccan cannabis is imported via Spain and The Netherlands.

During the past year, domestic demand has increased sharply. Police raids have netted substantial amounts of drugs plus large numbers of users and dealers for both stimulants and opiates, including heroin. Law enforcement authorities are blaming the increase in petty crime in Tallinn's center to addicts and drug users. At year's end, the situation had grown so grave that the police have assigned many more foot patrol officers to high-crime areas.

Climatic factors preclude Estonia from becoming a major source for narcotic crops. There are reports however on trafficking in precursor chemicals and also domestic manufacture of precursors for amphetamines, and also amphetamines themselves.

Estonia's law on narcotic and psychotropic substances went into force on November 1, 1997. The law deals with drug abusers' treatment and rehabilitation. It also sets a legal basis for controlling precursor chemicals and their trafficking, which had been largely uncontrolled. The same law also prohibits cultivation of cannabis and opium poppy.

Although the number of narcotics crimes and drug abusers is increasing, by international standards Estonia's current domestic situation is not of a dimension that threatens society. The estimated number of drug abusers is about 10,000, of whom about 7,000 are thought to be taking opiates intravenously. Cocaine use, which was virtually unknown as recently as two years ago, is now seen as growing rapidly.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives. Estonia's criminal code needs refinement with respect to its drug provisions. Legislation on this pending in the Parliament aims to reduce penalties for small "recreational" users while raising them for narcotics traffickers and dealers.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The number of full-time counternarcotics officers assigned to the Tallinn-based Central Criminal Police is 33, compared to 14 in 1997. Of these, 15 officers are tasked primarily with combating drug- related and vice crimes. Beginning in March 1998, a special counternarcotics team has conducted regular patrols in Tallinn to rein in drug business in the streets and at popular youth nightspots. The city authorities and several private companies have contributed to the Counternarcotics Bureau enabling it to purchase surveillance devices and detection equipment. In 1998, counter-drug offices were also established in Tartu, Estonia's second largest city, to combat narcotics crimes in south Estonia and also in northeast Estonia, which is populated predominantly by Russian speakers. In addition, every police prefecture assigns one officer to be responsible for drug matters. The Counternarcotics Office of the Central Criminal Police acts as a coordination body for the concerned law enforcement agencies.

A new Counternarcotics Bureau is being established at the National Customs Board. The Bureau will involve eight border guards trained to work with two drug- detecting dogs working at different border stations. The independent Counternarcotics Bureau in the Customs Board focuses on controlling expanding drug trafficking into, as well as transiting, Estonia.

Estonian law enforcement authorities have developed effective liaison with Finland, coordinating counternarcotics and other law enforcement activities. Both Sweden and Finland have police liaison officers permanently assigned their embassies in Estonia to perform the same role.

In the first ten months of 1998, 183 drug-related crimes were registered, a 64.8 per cent increase over the same period in 1997. During the first ten months of 1998, police and customs confiscated 2,525 grams of cocaine, 70 grams of heroin, 123 grams of hashish, 3,958 grams of marijuana, 70 tablets of Tarin (an anti- radiation substance used by Soviet military forces, now withdrawn but many Soviet military personnel retired or were demobilized in Estonia), and 300 liters of the precursor chemical, acetophenol. Police attribute the growth in these numbers to increased drug abuse and also the growing expertise of law enforcement officials.

Corruption. The USG is not aware of any official narcotic-related corruption in Estonia in 1998.

Agreements and Treaties. Estonia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. A law on narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances was put in force in 1997 to comply with the requirements of the UN Drug Conventions.

Estonia has concluded agreements of cooperation with Latvia and Lithuania and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries on law enforcement cooperation. An agreement on the exchange of relevant information has been signed with Finland. Estonia signed an extradition treaty with the U.S. in 1924, which remains in force, and after regaining its independence in 1991, it signed the European Community treaty on extradition. The U.S. and Estonia signed an MLAT, which was recently ratified by the US.

A mini-Dublin Group, established in Estonia in 1994, facilitates dialogue among governments and international agencies providing drug-related assistance to the Estonian Government.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Estonian police officers and customs officials continue to benefit from training by the US, Nordic and EU countries on drug interdiction. The U.S. has provided Estonia with narcotics test kits, as well as a U.S. Customs course on Land Border Interdiction. Contacts have been established between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Estonian National Police and INTERPOL. Estonian police officials also receive training offered multilaterally at the State Department-funded International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest.

The Road Ahead. In 1999, the U.S. and other donors intend to offer Estonia additional training dealing with drug enforcement and organized and financial crimes. In addition, they will encourage and support the Government in bringing greater attention to coordinate the work of the interested government bodies and ministries.

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