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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL STRATEGY REPORT, MARCH 1996: AUSTRIA

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs


AUSTRIA

I. Summary

Austria considers itself primarily a transit country for cocaine and heroin destined for larger West European markets. Most recent statistics available are for 1994. With respect to consumption, authorities estimate there are 10,000 Austrian drug addicts, but 1994 brought an 11percent increase to 250 of drug-related deaths. The number of people charged with misdemeanor drug violations in 1994 rose, while more serious violations dropped slightly, resulting in an overall increase of approximately 16 percent. Officials fear increased use of ecstasy and believe drug-related crime linked to Eastern Europe is on the rise.

With European Union (EU) membership in 1995, Austria is bringing its drug-related legal framework into harmony with EU regulations. The Government of Austria (GOA) has signed but not ratified the 1988 UN Convention.

Increased concern about money laundering in Austria has led the United Stated Government (USG) to raise Austria's priority as a money laundering center from medium to medium-high.

II. Status of Country

The GOA estimates that there are about 10,000 Austrians addicted to drugs. Officials estimate that about 2 percent of the population has tried cannabis, the most widely abused illegal drug, at least once. Health officials fear that the illegal use of MDMA/ecstasy (primarily from the Netherlands) in connection with large dance events ("clubbings") will continue to increase in 1996, as it did in 1994 and 1995.

Foreign criminal groups dominate the illegal drug trade destined for and transiting Austria. Cocaine traffic is primarily via South American couriers. Central and East European couriers transport Southwest Asian heroin overland via the diverse Balkan Routes.

Although Austria has enacted measures to help bring its money laundering laws into compliance with international and EU standards, legal loopholes persist, making it an attractive environment for organized crime groups. Results from anti-money laundering legislation which took effect in 1994 support the conclusion that some money-laundering takes place in Austria. Austria has a system for identifying, tracing, freezing, seizing and forfeiting narcotics-related assets, but does not share seized assets with other countries.

Austrian authorities do not consider the diversion of precursor and essential chemicals from Austria a problem.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1995

Policy Initiatives. Since entering the European Union in January 1995, Austria has participated in EU counternarcotics activities, such as the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the December Conference on Drug Policy in Europe. It is a member of the Council of Europe's "Pompidou Group", the Dublin Group, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and the UN International Drug Control Program (UNDCP). According to UNDCP, the GOA pledged approximately USD 549,000 in FY95 contributions to UNDCP.

The Health and Justice Ministries are preparing a new narcotic drugs law extending the control regime to include psychotropic substances.

Accomplishments. Shortly before Parliament dissolved in October, the Government introduced amendments to the penal code to facilitate extradition, judicial assistance, asset forfeiture, and confiscation of illicit proceeds. Government crises interfered with the Austrian government's earlier plans to introduce the amendments, and they will be reintroduced to the new Parliament in 1996.

Austria does not have a master plan, but it tries to coordinate its counter-narcotics efforts and has begun the process of establishing a "national focal point," i.e. a national clearing house for data on demand reduction programs, key indicators, and abuse statistics. The data collected will eventually be fed into an EU-wide drug data network.

Agreements and Treaties. The GOA and USG signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in March 1995. Negotiations continue on a new Extradition Treaty to replace the 1934 treaty currently in force. The GOA introduced penal code amendments to respond to requirements by the EU and to enable Austria to ratify the 1988 UN Convention, as well as the 1993 Council of Europe Convention on laundering, tracking, and seizing profits from criminal actions. Due to inadequate implementing regulations, Austria has not yet ratified the Conventions, although it has signed them. Another precondition for ratifying these two Conventions is the ratification of the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which requires a new narcotic drugs law extending the control regime to include psychotropic substances. The Health and Justice Ministries have indicated they are drafting this legislation. Austria is a party to the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and its 1972 protocol.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Drug statistics for 1995 have not yet been released. In 1994 Austrian authorities seized 241 kgs. of cannabis (compared to 424 kgs. in 1993), 80 kgs. of heroin (compared to 105 in 1993), and 53 kgs. of cocaine (compared to 84 kgs. in 1993). Although the quantity of drugs was lower than the previous year, the number of arrests was higher: police arrested 12,623 people on drug-related charges in 1994, compared to 10,915 in 1993.

Corruption. The GOA has generally applicable public corruption laws. The USG is not aware of high-level Austrian government officials' involvement in drug-related corruption.

Cultivation/Production. The USG is not aware of any illicit drugs produced or cultivated in Austria.

Drug Flow/Transit. The opening of borders of Central and Eastern European countries has resulted in variations of the classic Balkan Route and the possibility of using Austria in more heroin transit operations. The use of nearby Bratislava, Slovakia, as a way-station for heroin resulted in an increased influx of small amounts of heroin into Eastern Austria. Heroin cigarettes became a temporary phenomenon and started "Cigarette Tourism" to the nearby Slovakian capital.

The arrival of South American cocaine via Central European airports was a new route. Also in a change of pattern, cocaine couriers were more often Europeans than Nigerians. Cocaine is destined partly for domestic markets, and partly for transit to Italy and Germany.

Demand Reduction Programs. Federal Ministries are preparing educational video games and updating a drug information kit for schools, which contains a course plan for teachers. The Ministry for Family and Youth Affairs has expanded its nationwide seminars on preventive drug counselling for those who work with youths who are not in school (apprentices, etc). In reaction to increased popularity of "ecstasy," the Health Ministry distributed flyers on the dangers of this drug.

About 60 drug advisory centers (public, private/church-affiliated) qualified for government subsidies amounting to USD 2.6 million in 1994. Each of the nine provinces employs a drug coordinator for policy decisions and a drug commissioner for health-related issues.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. USG and GOA law enforcement cooperation is very good. In December, Austria deported to the United States a US citizen who had been a DEA-sought fugitive since 1985. Austria also cooperated on a letter rogatory request for approximately USD 3.5 million frozen in Austrian bank accounts and other proceeds from drug trafficking activities of a major member of Colombia's Cali Cartel. An investigation initiated in Austria and worked cooperatively with the USG resulted in the seizure of 100 kgs. of heroin in the United States. The USG and GOA worked cooperatively on a controlled delivery of cocaine from Bolivia to Austria.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to urge the GOA to make ratification of the 1988 UN Convention a key priority for the new government. The USG will also encourage the GOA to introduce tougher money laundering legislation, particularly regarding securities accounts. The GOA will make harmonizing Austrian laws with EU and other international conventions a priority.

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