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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

Kyrgyzstan is not a major producer of illicit narcotics, but its location continues to attract narcotics trafficking from Afghanistan and Pakistan into Russia and Western Europe. Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies are struggling to control this problem, but are poorly trained and understaffed. However, Kyrgyz authorities are aware of the need to combat narcotics trafficking, and are working to develop an effective anti- narcotics plan. Kyrgyzstan is a party 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Kyrgyzstan is increasingly popular as a transit route for Afghani heroin and hashish. It became a transit country for opium in the 1980 - from the beginning of the Afghan war. The transit significantly increased in the 1990, when the civil war began in Tajikistan. During the last 6-7 years, the problems of drug trafficking and drug addiction have become more severe.

The narcotics are mostly routed through the city of Osh in the south of Kyrgyzstan, where they are re-packaged and sent north over the mountain routes by individual couriers, or small groups. These narcotics find their way onto the Russian and western European markets. There is no evidence that narcotics trafficked through Kyrgyzstan have reached the United States. However, there is at least one reported case of exporting heroin to Germany. It was a high-profile case which involved cooperation between Kyrgyz and German law enforcement officials, as a result of which a Kyrgyzstani national and former world and European boxing champion, Andrey Kurnyavka, was arrested in Germany in August 1998, when he attempted to sell 3 kilograms of heroin brought from Kyrgyzstan.

The GOK reports that there are six known trafficking groups operating from Osh. These six groups are the only groups throughout all of Kyrgyzstan know to be involved in trafficking. Use of women as couriers has obviously increased due to rising poverty among women, and a local perception that women are more reluctant to reveal the name of their employer if apprehended. During the last year, 344 women (12.4 per cent of the total number of those arrested for narcotics related crimes, including trafficking.) were convicted for drug trafficking.

Marijuana and hashish are the most popular illicit drugs in Kyrgyzstan. Amphetamines are another commonly abused drug. There are 50,000 officially registered drug addicts in Kyrgyzstan, 94.1 per cent of the total are capable of working, and are of working age, 5 per cent of the total are women. As early as 1995, reports were received of money laundering occurring in Kyrgyzstan's newly formed banking system. Fearing the economic repercussions of a banking system subverted to criminal enterprises, the GOK took actions to bring the banks into compliance with western banking standards. Additionally, legislation was enacted to provide a legal basis for asset forfeiture in criminal cases. There have been no further reports of money laundering efforts through Kyrgyz banks.

Kyrgyzstan is not likely to become a major producer of narcotics, even though, by GOK's estimates, wildly growing opium poppy, cannabis and ephedra occupy at least 15,000 acres. GOK has no evidence that 1000 ha or more of poppy or is being cultivated or harvested. Kyrgyz officials believe this figure is declining because there are 70 teams involved in destroying wild poppy and cannabis. Nevertheless, a UNDCP report states the total HA cannabis cultivation was 5,835 ha, but it does not come to the United States in quantities that significantly affect us.

Almost 300 criminal cases have been brought up in 1998 for illegal cultivation of drug-containing crops.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives. President Akayev emphasized the importance of the anti- drug policy on September 8, 1998 when he presented a speech to the central Asian heads of state in Baku calling for healthy life styles and struggle against drug addiction and drug trafficking as priority calling tasks.

General Mameyev, the head of the anti-narcotics commission, thinks the following measures are needed: active steps by local authorities to control illegal plantations of poppy and cannabis; better control of drug supplies and their disbursement at pharmacies, warehouses, and hospitals; improvement of the efficiency of customs and law enforcement agencies and eradication of corruption among them.

The GOK has taken steps to develop an effective counter-narcotics program. Recognizing that its law enforcement personnel are poorly trained, the GOK has cooperated with U.S. law enforcement agencies to receive necessary training and equipment. The GOK has also expressed an interest in continuing and broadening this cooperation. Additionally, the GOK cooperates with the UNDCP for assistance in counter-narcotics efforts, and assisted the UNDCP in opening an office in Osh, where the trafficking groups are located.

The Ministry of Interior has the lead in drug interdiction activities, but the 180 officers who are actively engaged in counter-narcotics efforts are under the supervision of a former army general who heads the commission for drug control and reports directly to the Prime Minister. The general coordinates all anti-narcotics efforts and acts as a kind of 'drug czar' for the Kyrgyz republic.

The State Commission for Drug Control coordinates the efforts of over 15 ministries and agencies. There is a special governmental program of actions to control drugs for the years of 1998 to 2000, which focuses on the reduction of demand in drugs and illegal drug trafficking.

In April 1998, Kyrgyzstan was the first in Central Asia to pass the law on 'drugs, illicit narcotics and precursors'. The commission developed this law for Drug Control in accordance with the requirements of international UN Drug Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988. The law regulates the issues of legal and illegal turnover of drugs, illicit narcotics and precursors and establishes rules for handling them.

The commission has also developed a concept for the national policy on drug control for the period from 1998 to 2000. It envisages regulations on confiscation, storage and disposal of illicit narcotics.

By November 30, 1998, over 1.5 tons of drugs were confiscated, including: 108 kilograms of opium (versus 398 in 1997), almost 30 kilograms of heroin (versus about 2 kilograms in 1997. During the current year every ninth to tenth criminal case was drug-related. Beside Kyrgyzstanis, among the arrested drug smugglers, there are citizens of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbajan, and even Iran and Nigeria.

In September 1998, the GOK hosted an INL-funded U.s. Customs Regional Narcotics Interdiction Course and Train-the-Trainer Workshop in Bishkek which was attended by 18 Kyrgyz customs, police and defense officials. In addition, a U.S. multi-agency Money Laundering Seminar was conducted in Bishkek for 40 Kyrgyz officials.

Corruption. GOK authorities believe that narcotics related corruption is quite common. Corruption is a widely acknowledged problem in Kyrgyzstan, and there is no reason to believe that narcotics related agencies such as the Ministry of Interior and the border forces are immune to the problem. However, the GOK has taken strict measures to bring the problem of corruption under control. In accordance with a Presidential decree, a special coordination council was established in December 1998 to ferret out and prosecute those officials suspected of corruption.

Agreements and Treaties. Kyrgyzstan is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention as well as the 1961 UN Single Convention and 1971 UN Convention of Psychotropic Substances. Kyrgyzstan is also a party to the central Asian counter-narcotics protocol between the central Asian countries and the UNDCP. Currently, Kyrgyzstan does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Cultivation and Production. Kyrgyztsan once produced a significant percentage of the world's licit opium poppy supply for the manufacture of the Soviet Union's medicinal morphine production. The licit cultivation of opium poppies, however, ended in 1973, when the Soviet Union imposed a ban due to the difficulties of controlling the cultivation and processing of opium.

According to the Ministry of Interior synthetic drug laboratories producing amphetamines and ephedrine have been discovered in the past. Currently, there are no official reports of opium production in Kyrgyztsan. However, according to General Mameyev, there are strong suspicions that in the Osh oblast there are underground laboratories producing heroin out of raw opium. Laboratories in Pakistan and Afghanistan are known to produce heroin, and there is information about such laboratories in Gorny Badakhshan of Tajikistan. There is speculation that heroin is being produced locally but the bulk is being transported through Kyrgyzstan is coming from the outside.

One of the reasons for increased drug trafficking is related to the deterioration of safeguarding of NIS borders and the complicated internal situation in Tajikistan.

The difficulties of controlling drug traffic from Afghanistan include: harsh high-altitude and climatic conditions at the main drug road Khorog- Osh (altitude of 3500-4000 m, winter temperature of minus 40 degrees Celsius); involvement of governmental officials and law enforcement officers; and good knowledge of mountain trails by drug smugglers, which allows drug dealers to bypass border guard posts. These trails are impossible for law enforcement units to control. More rigid control at Sary- Tash post in the Osh oblast forced drug smugglers to change their routes and go from Gorny Badakhshan in the direction of Dara-Ut-Kurgan of Chon Alai region and further down to Kyzyl-Kiya, Uzgen, Jalal-Abad and then to Uzbekistan.

Road Ahead. Over the next year, Kyrgyzstan hopes to continue its anti- narcotic activity. In order to improve the quality of operations in this area, Kyrgyzstan will need further assistance from respective professional and donor organizations both in terms of training programs and equipment.

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