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United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs


I. Summary

In 1995, Poland emerged as a major producer of illicit amphetamines, and a significant transit point for cocaine, heroin, and multi-ton shipments of cannabis destined for the Western European market. Narcotics-related crime is on the rise and criminal gangs are increasingly well-entrenched in Poland. Domestic poppy straw compote is the most widely used drug in Poland, but amphetamine use is also on the rise. The Government of Poland (GOP) has made significant progress towards developing a comprehensive antidrug strategy, including the adoption of new legislation with provisions for undercover operations. Such provisions led, in 1995, to the dismantling of a major illicit amphetamine operation. Despite overall resource problems, police and prosecutors are rapidly expanding counterdrug activities and special anti-organized crime units now operate at the national and regional level. Poland is a party to the 1988 UN Convention. However, to facilitate compliance with the Convention, the criminal code still requires substantial reform. Possession of drugs remains legal in Poland, but the Parliament is currently reviewing legislation which will criminalize possession.

II. Status of Country

The large number of arrests and seizures in 1995 underscores Poland's role as a crossroads for illicit drug smuggling. The Cali cartel is stepping up efforts to target Poland both by sea and air. Heroin traffickers, including those from Nigeria, Turkey, India and Pakistan, are also attempting to use routes through Poland as an alternative to the Balkan route to reach West European drug markets. Ethnic Chinese crime gangs are also establishing themselves in Poland, and Polish nationals are increasingly attracted to the drug trade.

Many European law enforcement officials believe that Poland is now the largest producer of illicit amphetamines in Europe and that 20 percent of the amphetamines sold in Western Europe come from Poland. The postcommunist era of low pay and a shrinking state research budget, offer the drug industry a pool of highly-skilled chemists who are often willing to supplement their incomes in illicit laboratories.

Domestically produced drugs are also a problem in Poland. The most common of these is compote which is produced from homegrown opium poppy that is often diverted from licit poppy fields. The Ministry of Agriculture issues licenses for cultivation, but requires farmers to sell the opium to the government. The farmers are allowed to keep the seeds to sell for culinary purposes. Often, however, some of the opium is diverted for illicit purposes.

Following the dismantling by the Polish National Police (PNP) in 1994 of a large-scale marijuana farm run by a West European drug gang, marijuana cultivation has declined.

The Ministry of Health estimates that there are 40,000 drug users in Poland, but independent experts say there may be as many as 100,000 addicts in Poland, and casual users are estimated at 200,000. The most prevalent drug used in Poland is poppy straw compote, but amphetamines are also becoming popular. A third of all intravenous drug addicts are HIV-positive, and intravenous drug use is the leading cause of AIDS in Poland.

III. Country Action Against Drugs in 1995

Policy Initiatives. The GOP has taken some significant steps towards developing an effective counterdrug strategy, although much more needs to be done to thwart the drug traffickers efforts to target Poland. The adoption of counter-crime legislation with provisions for wiretaps and controlled deliveries, has already begun to yield some interdiction successes for the GOP. In June 1995, the Cabinet also approved legislation to criminalize possession of drugs, but the bill is still pending in the Parliament. Legislation enacted in 1994 to combat whitecollar crime included provisions that make money laundering illegal. These provisions include only a very limited definition of money laundering, however. The GOP is also developing legislation which will establish a chemical control regime to conform with the regulations of the European Union. An inter-ministerial task force that includes 100 members is currently drafting the GOP's national drug strategy and will develop additional legislation required to comply with the 1988 UN Convention.

To increase law enforcement efforts, the PNP has expanded and strengthened the national organized crime division created in 1994. Most major cities also have their own organized crime squad and the Ministry of Justice has created analogous units in the Prosecutor General's office and in a dozen major cities. The GOP also has plans to establish a National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) to coordinate all law enforcement activities and disseminate counterdrug information.

Increased resources and new laws have begun to pay significant dividends for the PNP and the border guards. Following a two year investigation, Polish police dismantled one of the largest amphetamine production facilities, seized two kilograms of pure amphetamine, 40 liters of precursors and tons of other chemicals. The laboratory is estimated to have produced more than a ton of amphetamines. Other record seizures include two tons of marijuana discovered by Polish border guards (SG) in a shipment of ginger from the Netherlands, nine tons of hashish hidden on a Polish fishing boat in Swinoujscie, and 219 kilograms of cocaine from a Greek ship in Gdansk. International cooperation has also resulted in increased seizures. Polish and Scandinavian authorities seized a shipment of over 18 tons of marijuana in Norway that was destined for Poland. Despite these successes, however, GOP authorities note that many of their operations are hampered by the current legislation which allows for possession of all drugs.

Cultivation and Production. There are no reliable estimates on the extent of opium poppy cultivation, but the PNP reports increased eradication efforts. After significant successes in eradicating marijuana in 1994, cultivation of that crop seems to be down, but there are no official estimates of the extent of marijuana cultivation in Poland.

Corruption. Although there have been press allegations of corruption in the Customs Service, the USG is unaware of any reports of official narcotics-related corruption in Poland.

Agreements and Treaties. The GOP is a party to the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

The United States and Poland have an extradition treaty dating back to 1929 (supplemented in 1936). The extradition treaty was renegotiated in 1995, but is still awaiting signature and ratification by both parties. An "Arrangement for the Direct Exchange of Certain Information Regarding the Traffic in Narcotic Drugs," which dates back to August 17, 1931 is also in force. Negotiations began in 1995 and are ongoing for a treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and for a Letter of Agreement on narcotics assistance.

Domestic Programs. Although demand reduction programs are understaffed, resources limited, and possession of all drugs remains legal, the GOP is expanding its demand reduction programs. GOP programs include community outreach programs involving 10,000 secondary and post-secondary youths; complementary programs for adults involving 10,000 parents, teachers and social workers; and peer support groups reaching about 7,500 adults. The Ministry of Health is also expanding its rehabilitation programs and is now beginning to work through non-governmental organizations (ngo).

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives and Bilateral Cooperation. The USG is continuing to promote increased GOP attention to the drug problem. Against this backdrop, the USG increased cooperation with Poland's antidrug agencies in 1995 and provided significant law enforcement, customs, and other assistance to the Polish law enforcement community. Additionally, the USG financed GOP participation in a regional demand reduction program.

The Road Ahead. With the new extradition treaty and the mutual legal assistance treaty expected to be signed soon, the United States and Poland will have a strong legal basis for bilateral cooperation on law enforcement issues. The USG plans to continue funding law enforcement and demand reduction training courses for Polish participants. The USG will also encourage antidrug cooperation by those nations, primarily in Western Europe, most directly effected by drug smuggling through Poland. Support from the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) to assist Poland's customs and police is also key to the GOP antidrug effort.

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