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 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
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
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
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.