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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

Kazakhstan continues to be a popular drug corridor for the trafficking of opiates and cannabis products from major drug producing countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan to Russian and Western European markets. The volume of drugs produced and smuggled has increased. Kazakhstan's Chu valley contains 400,000 hectares of wild growing cannabis, with an estimated annual harvest of 500 metric tons. The Government of Kazakhstan (GOK) approved a UNDCP master plan for counter-narcotics and related crimes, and the parliament ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, as well as the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. It has determined staffing for its interagency drug control committee, which is headed by Minister of the Interior Suleymenov. The National Security Committee (KNB--successor to the KGB) was granted authority to fight international narcotics trafficking, corruption and organized crime. The KNB successfully mounted a joint operation with British customs and arrested South Asian drug traffickers. Kazakhstan has requested closer cooperation with U.S. and western law enforcement agencies to monitor controlled deliveries of narcotics transiting Kazakhstan.

II. Status of Country

Increasing drug trafficking and drug crop harvesting are Kazakhstan's most serious illicit drug problems. Drug trafficking from Afghanistan and Pakistan, primarily in opiates, continues to increase, and Kazakhstan has the potential to become a transit country for Chinese psychotropic drugs, according to local law enforcement officials. The most popular means to traffic drugs through Kazakhstan is on north-bound trains from Kazakhstan to Moscow, using adolescent or elderly people to smuggle the goods in their baggage or on their persons. The increasing frequency of international air connections from Kazakhstan to Western Europe have led drug traffickers to smuggle narcotics by air as well. Drug abuse among Kazakhstani citizens under 30, who comprise an estimated two-thirds of the country's 200,000 drug users, continues to increase. Kazakhstan has one of the region's most developed banking systems, and is a potential host for money laundering operations. Thirty of the country's chemical plants have the capacity to manufacture chemical precursors, and Kazakhstan produces acetic anhydride, a heroin precursor, which is exported to Russia and other NIS countries.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives/Law Enforcement. In 1998, Kazakhstan was in general compliance with the goals and objective of the 1988 UN Convention, which parliament ratified in June. In October, Kazakhstan approved a UNDCP counter-narcotics master plan for 1998-2006. President Nazarbayev designated counter-narcotics programs to be a national policy priority. In January, Kazakhstan implemented a revised criminal code that includes stiff penalties for narcotics trafficking and production, money laundering and organized crime. Kazakhstan passed legislation defining psychotropic substances, drafted legislation for the control of precursors, and imposed some licensing requirements on chemical manufacturers.

Corruption. Kazakhstan passed an anti-corruption law in 1998 that grants the government the authority to seize assets of government officials obtained through corrupt activities. The number of prosecution of lower and mid-level government officials (whose low salaries average between $l00-150 per month) for corruption increased, although corruption remained rampant.

Agreements and Treaties. In 1998, Kazakhstan's parliament ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention, as well as the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, as well as the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substance. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Kazakhstan.

Cultivation and Production. Opium: According to UNDCP, GOK authorities discovered and destroyed less than one hectare of opium poppy plots in 1998. Reportedly it is much it is much easier and less expensive for illicit traffickers to smuggle opium or heroin from Pakistan or Afghanistan than to grow it in Kazakhstan. UNDCP source stated that much of the opium was grown for personal consumption rather than for illicit sale. Cannabis: Kazakhstan's Chu valley and nearby regions contain the world's largest contiguous vegetated area containing cannabis as a dominant element. Potential production has been estimated as high as 6000 metric tons per year. However, this does not reach the United States in amounts that significantly affect this country. Ephedra: at least seven species of ephedra are indigenous in an area of 350,000 hectares in southern Kazakhstan, spawning a growing cottage industry in the illicit production of ephedrine.

Drug flow/Transit. Kazakhstan is a significant transit country for opiates produced in southwest Asia destined for markets in the former Soviet Union and Western Europe. Drug traffickers use road and rail routes primarily to smuggle narcotics through Kazakhstan. Increasing commercial air links have led to a rise in use of air routes as well. There are indications that Kazakhstan is used for the transshipment of precursor chemicals from Russia and other NIS countries to southwest Asia for the illicit production of heroin.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. Marijuana is the primary drug of abuse. Opiates are also popular. Addicts reportedly inject narcotics extracted from opium poppy straw. Other abused substances include barbiturates, benzodiazapines, ephedrine hydrochloride, and inhalants. With U.S. and UNDCP funding, Kazakhstan completed development of a drug education curriculum for students ages 7-17 in 1998. The curriculum will be taught nationwide beginning in the spring of 1999. Also in 1998, the government launched a national "healthy lifestyles" campaign discouraging the use of alcohol, tobacco and narcotics.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

The U.S. Goal is to provide training and assistance to strengthen Kazakhstan's ability to interdict the transit and production of illicit drugs.

Bilateral Cooperation. In 1998, Kazakhstan established a central law enforcement/counter-narcotics training facility. In accordance with a 1997 bilateral letter of agreement (LOA), the Embassy will provide the training center with equipment for the production and dubbing into Russian of training tapes. Under the 1997 LOA, the U.S. provided the Kazakhstani state drug

control commission with 230 drug test kits and 600 refills and funded Kazakhstani participation in anti-corruption and counter-narcotics seminars sponsored by the UNDCP and the OSEC. In September 1998, five Kazak customs officials participated in an INL-funded U.S. Customs Regional Narcotics Interdictions Course and Train-the-Trainer Workshop conducted in Kyrgyzstan.

Road Ahead. With the signing in 1998 of a UNDCP master plan for the control of illicit drugs and organized crime, U.S. assistance can best be used in support of the plan and in filling gaps not covered by UNDCP programs. These include continued support for the central law enforcement/counter- narcotics training institute and technical assistance to improve anti- corruption, counter-narcotics and law enforcement legislation and regulations. Continued U.S. funded training opportunities, in Kazakhstan and abroad, will be essential to improve counter- narcotics detection, investigation and prosecution skills of Kazakhstani officials.

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