1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
United States Department of State
February 26, 1999
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
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
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
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
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
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.