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