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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

There is no appreciable cultivation of illicit narcotics in Turkey, although licit opium poppies are grown. Consumption of narcotics within Turkey remains relatively low. Turkey's geographical position makes it a major transit route for Southwest Asian opiates moving to Europe, and for some synthetic drugs to the Middle East. Turkish anti-narcotics efforts are concentrated on stemming transit traffic, and on eradicating illicit laboratories within Turkey which process smuggled morphine base into heroin. There is no conclusive evidence that illicit narcotics produced in Turkey or transiting Turkey enter the United States in significant quantities.

Turkey is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and is investigating possible money laundering cases. The 1988 UN Drug Convention was signed by Turkey in 1988, and formally ratified in 1996.

II. Status of Country

Opium poppy cultivation in Turkey is limited to carefully monitored and controlled production for the licit pharmaceutical opiate market, as recognized by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the United States Government (USG). There is no indication of diversion to illicit channels. Farming inefficiencies and relatively poor alkaloid content make poppy crops for opiates only marginally commercial, although poppy seeds are a valuable food crop. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the Turkish authorities to improve the alkaloid content of the poppies. Other illicit cultivation of narcotic plants, primarily marijuana, is minor and has no significant effect on the United States.

The amount of heroin and other illicit opiates transiting Turkey is unknown, although the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimates that it remains steady at between four and six tons of heroin to Europe each month. As much as 75 percent of the heroin seized in Europe has a "Turkish Connection," having either transited Turkey, been processed there, or been seized in connection with Turkish criminal syndicates. We continue to monitor this route for indications that heroin transiting Turkey affects the United States. The discoveries of processing labs and seizures of illicit precursor chemicals such as acetic anhydride indicate continuing heroin refining in Turkey. Turkish anti-narcotics forces are aggressive in interdicting drug traffic and closing down illicit laboratories within Turkey.

Turkey has continued to move forward in its anti-money-laundering campaign. The Turkish Financial Crimes Investigative Board (FCIB), with the assistance of the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN), is actively investigating more than 80 possible money-laundering cases. Three of the cases have been sent to the prosecutor's office for further action. So far, the cases have centered primarily on allegations of corruption rather than money generated from narcotics trade. None of the cases sent to the Turkish prosecutor's office involved narcotics.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives. Turkey continues to emphasize anti-money laundering efforts. The Government of Turkey tried to obtain a better estimate on the informal economy by declaring a "financial clearance day" on September 30, 1998. All Turks with undeclared monetary assets were asked to put these assets in a Turkish bank for that one day. A total of $4.3 billion was recorded. Two major pieces of legislation are before Parliament, but not expected to pass until the formation of the new government: an organized crime bill which would better define and more severely punish organized crime, and a banking reform bill which would enforce stricter auditing controls on banks.

Accomplishments. Turkey's anti-money laundering efforts received a satisfactory evaluation from FATF in October 1998. In the same month, Turkey signed a multilateral agreement within the context of the Southeast European Cooperation Initiative (SECI) with Romania and Bulgaria for cooperation on anti-terrorism, organized crime, narcotics smuggling, and money laundering.

Law Enforcement Efforts. As of mid-December 1998, Turkish law enforcement agencies, including the Turkish National Police, the Jandarma (rural police), Customs, and Coast Guard, had seized over three tons of heroin and five tons of hashish. There were 4,577 drug-related arrests. Turkish officials continue to maintain close relationships with anti-narcotic counterparts in the United States and many European countries, and hold monthly meetings with those countries' drug liaison officers.

Corruption. Allegations of corruption continue to dominate news headlines. The arrest of alleged Turkish mafia boss Alaaddin Cakici in France in 1998 re-opened rumors of criminal gang corruption of major political figures in such areas as preferential treatment in bidding for privatized state entities. On November 25, State Minister Gunes Taner was censured for his apparent involvement in corruption and was stripped of his cabinet seat. Allegations of corruption were also leveled against Prime Minister Yilmaz, whose government lost a vote of confidence the same day. To date, the corruption allegations have not involved narcotics trafficking.

Agreements and Treaties. The United States and Turkey have long-standing bilateral treaties covering extradition and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, as well as a narcotics assistance protocol. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Turkey. In addition, Turkey is a party to the World Customs Organization's International Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance for the Prevention, Investigation, and Repression of Customs Offenses, Annex X on Assistance in Narcotics Cases. Turkey is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, and is a member of FATF.

Cultivation and Production. Opium poppies are grown by licensed farmers for pharmaceutical and food products. Licit opium poppy cultivation is strictly controlled by the Turkish Grain Board (TMO), with no apparent diversion into illicit channels. Culinary poppy seed brings farmers more profit than the sale of the low-alkaloid poppy straw. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the Turkish authorities to improve the alkaloid content of the poppies. Other illicit cultivation of narcotic plants, primarily marijuana, is minor and has no significant impact on the United States.

Drug Flow and Transit. Turkey remains one of the major transit routes for the flow of Southwest Asian heroin to Europe. There is little evidence that heroin from Turkey enters the United States, either directly or through another transit state. We continue to monitor the flow of heroin through Turkey for indications that it is becoming significant for the United States, but no such indications have appeared thus far. Heroin, and to a lesser degree, morphine base is smuggled through Turkey's eastern border. Morphine base is refined in illicit labs, most often in the rural Southeast or near Istanbul. Heroin is most commonly transferred to Europe hidden in containers on trucks. Smaller amounts are transported by bus or air passengers, or in private vehicles. Of note, in 1998, was the seizure of approximately 550 kilograms of cocaine from a ship on Turkey's southern coast. This may be an indication of heroin-cocaine barter trade, with South American cocaine entering Europe through traditional heroin routes.

Reports of involvement in drug trafficking by the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) continue. The PKK, a terrorist separatist group active in the southeast border region of Turkey, reportedly is paid protection money by narcotics traffickers and refiners. PKK groups based in Europe are also alleged to be involved in narcotics trafficking.

Demand Reduction. The single drug-prevention and substance-abuse facility, the Amatem Clinic, treats drug addiction and alcoholism. The incidence of substance abuse remains low, which the Turks attribute to a strong family structure and the Muslim proscription of mind-altering substances. Amatem Clinic has placed high priority on training family doctors, pharmacists, and teachers to recognize the signs of drug abuse, and on gathering reliable statistics on drug use.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

U.S. Policy Initiatives. USG policy is to strengthen Turkey's law enforcement capability to combat narcotics trafficking and to control money laundering and financial crime. The USG provides anti-narcotics equipment and training assistance to the Turkish National Police, training and equipment to Turkish Customs aimed at strengthening border interdiction, and training to the Turkish Financial Crimes Investigative Board. To assist Turkey's effort to keep licit opiate production from moving into illicit channels, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping Turkey to increase the opiate ratio in poppy straw.

The USG anti-narcotics programs in Turkey, including training, are budgeted at approximately $700,000.

Bilateral Cooperation. USG anti-narcotics agencies report that while the number of interdictions has remained stable, the cooperation and professionalism of Turkish law enforcement officials is improving. There were a number of successful bilateral investigations in 1998, including the seizure of 550 kilograms of cocaine.

The Road Ahead. Turkey is continuing its efforts to curtail drugs entering through its borders, and to disrupt the flow of drug trafficking in Turkey. Further legislation is needed to crack down on organized crime, improve banking regulations, and limit parliamentary immunity to prosecution. Active prosecution of pending money laundering cases, expected in the coming year, will be a positive sign of Turkey's commitment to fighting drugs and corruption.

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