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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 drug problem in Iceland is relatively small compared to other countries yet there has been growing concern that the country could become a target for those traffickers looking for a new transit route. Local production of illegal drugs is virtually non-existent, which means drugs for domestic use originate from abroad, entering by air or sea. There has been a worrisome trend in the 1990s of increased narcotics use, particularly amphetamines and ecstasy. Some Icelandic officials are particularly concerned that by becoming a part of Schengen, all the currently closely monitored traffic from Europe will be unchecked and allow for an easier entry of drugs. The Icelandic police have been intensifying their domestic counter-narcotics efforts and are working hand-in-hand with local communities to raise awareness and promote prevention. These efforts have been advanced through high-publicity governmental campaign for a "drug-free Iceland in 2002." Law enforcement authorities are hopeful that new tougher legislation and stricter sentencing will serve to combat drug trafficking.

II. Status of Country

Iceland is neither a significant producer of drugs/precursor chemicals nor have there been any known cases of money laundering. Iceland's remote geographical location and difficult access account for this. Trafficking occurs on a relatively small scale compared to most other countries. Nonetheless, there is concern among government officials and law enforcement authorities that Iceland might become a target for those looking for a new transit point between Europe and North America. This potential problem could be exacerbated as Iceland seeks to be a part of Schengen, and would subsequently drop its screening of Europe-originating passengers.

While Iceland has a small drug problem on a per capita basis, domestic narcotics use has been on the rise over the past few years, specifically the use of amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine use.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives. Iceland reorganized its law enforcement system in July 1997 in an effort to more effectively combat crime. A "new" national police commissioner was established with coordination and oversight responsibility for over 26 police districts. One of the main tasks has been gathering statistics on illicit narcotics seized and entering this information in a central computerized database. The aim is to facilitate access to information and better enable police to identify trends and focus on areas that appear to be entry points for drugs. The 1997 reorganization led to the establishment of a special national drug intelligence unit, which has a national mandate and is better able to investigate drug cases. The national police commissioner also has sought to improve customs surveillance in an effort to interdict drugs before they enter the country.

Accomplishments. Icelandic police seizures in 1998 are similar to 1997 and are markedly less than in 1996. The authorities are hopeful that the decreased seizures reflect a more effective prevention effort since the 1997 reorganization of the law enforcement agencies combined with stiffer sentencing and the passage of tougher laws against drug offenders. Despite the downward trend in seizures, there were notable increases in ecstasy pills seized, where the total went from 1,375 pills in 1997 to 2,110 pills in 1998 and in cocaine where the total went from 126g in 1997 to 457g in 1998. There has been no confiscation of heroin or opium in the past three years.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Icelandic law enforcement efforts have improved since July 1997 but lack of staff and funding resources still make it a challenge for the government to combat drugs.

Corruption. Corruption is not a problem in Iceland. The government neither facilitates nor encourages the production and/or distribution of illicit drugs.

Agreements and Treaties. Iceland is a party to the 1998 UN drug convention, as well as the 1990 European Union Convention on Money Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of Criminal Proceeds.

Cultivation and Production. There is negligible cultivation and production of illegal drug in Iceland. Police occasionally discover marijuana plants that are intended for personal use, but no significant plots have ever been found. In 1998, police found 248 cannabis plants up from 161 in 1997.

Drug Flow/Transit. The police have not established any clear trends showing transit of drugs through Iceland but remain concerned that it only is a matter of time before traffickers explore Iceland as a potential transit point. Customs officials are particularly concerned that if Iceland becomes a member of Schengen, which the government is actively working to do, there will be no checks of passengers originating from Europe. This could make drug smuggling into Iceland and onward easier.

Chemical Control. Iceland has some producers of pharmaceuticals, mostly for domestic consumption, which are carefully regulated.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. The government, in cooperation with the Reykjavik city council, launched a campaign last year "drug free Iceland by year 2002" to increase drug awareness and education. The program's overall goal is, "to coordinate the nation's forces in the struggle against illegal drugs, to increase preventive work and to organize tasks and activities towards these goals." As part of this national effort, local communities and private parties also have become more active and are instituting drug prevention programs.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral cooperation with Iceland officials continues to be excellent. In 1998, the USIA-sponsored an international visitor from the Icelandic Ministry of Justice to the U.S. Upon his return this visitor introduced several U.S. policing methods aimed at more effectively combating crime and drugs. Other USG action in Iceland has focused on sharing information through a joint information coordination center (JICC) which is tasked with monitoring aircraft transiting Iceland. The local JICC informs the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) of aircraft coming through Iceland and EPIC in turn provides information available on that particular aircraft for potential action by Icelandic authorities.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to foster close cooperation and sharing of information with Icelandic counterparts and will seek to increase controls over potential trafficking through Iceland.

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