U.S. Department of State
1996 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1997
United States Department of State
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Africa and the Middle East
Lebanon appears to have won the fight against illicit crop cultivation due to
the joint Lebanese-Syrian eradication efforts since 1992. There appears to be
no cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis (for hashish production) also has
all but disappeared. There are some small farms in the Baalbek-Hermel region
which are still engaged in illicit cultivation, but they appear to be few in
number. When such farms are discovered, authorities make arrests immediately
and eradicate the crops. Lebanese Internal Security Forces (LISF) and the
Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), with assistance from the Syrian Army, reported
the eradication of approximately 70,000 square meters of cannabis in the
Baalbek-Hermel region of the Bekaa Valley during June and July. There were no
other reported eradication efforts during the year.
Lebanon is a significant transit country for the purposes of re-export of
cocaine, and many small home-type labs for processing opium into heroin are
still reported to operate in the Bekaa Valley. Several areas of the Bekaa
Valley are not fully controlled by either Syria or the GOL; these areas could
lend themselves to illegal lab activity.
Although local authorities deny money laundering is a serious problem, Lebanon
still presents itself to narcotics traffickers as a venue for money laundering
due to bank secrecy laws, which do not allow for official discovery.
Corruption is common within Lebanese law enforcement agencies.
In March 1996, the GOL acceded to the 1988 UN Convention, but expressed formal
reservations regarding certain provisions of the Convention, including those
which relate to bank secrecy. The US already has indicated its intention to
formally object to these reservations if Lebanon does not withdraw them.
Parliament is studying a draft antidrug code, which would make money
laundering a crime.
II. Status of Country
The joint Syrian-Lebanese effort since 1992 to eradicate the cultivation of
cannabis and opium in the Bekaa Valley is a significant accomplishment which
has been confirmed by a variety of sources. Absent follow-on programs by the
GOL, however, discontinuation of the UNDCP crop substitution program in late
1996 could lead to a resurgence of opium poppy and cannabis cultivation.
Like other countries in the region, Lebanon is still a venue for narcotics
processing and transshipment. Opium (from Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan)
travels into northern Lebanon for conversion into heroin. Cocaine from South
America transits Lebanon for onward transshipment to Europe, the US and, most
recently, for increased domestic consumption. Lebanese bank secrecy laws
inhibit the LISF and other enforcement officials from investigating possible
money laundering activities. Official corruption thrives, although it is
extremely difficult to gauge how much is speicifically related to narcotics.
Drug routes and networks have long been established, and flourished during
the war years in Lebanon. Distributors, dealers and middlemen continue to use
these routes to move their product to Europe and the US.
III. Country Action Against Drugs in 1996
Policy Initiatives. The LISF, LAF and other Lebanese law enforcement
authorities made steady progress in the fight against drug production and
importation. Future progress will have to be measured against their continued
success in eradication efforts, their ability to find and destroy reported
small mobile heroin labs in the Bekaa Valley and a continued effort against
the flow of cocaine into the airport and seaport.
Accomplishments. Opium cultivation has been all but wiped out in the Bekaa
Valley, and cannabis cultivation has been relegated to small farms which are
eradicated when found. Combined Lebanese/Syrian teams are still working to
stem the cultivation of cannabis and keep these levels to an absolute minimum.
Law Enforcement Efforts. In June and July, combined units of the LISF,
LAF and Syrian Army eradicated approximately 70,000 square meters of cannabis
in the Dar El-Wassiha, Ain El-Baida, Harf El-Madwi, El-Huma and Akkar Heights
areas. On November 3, the LISF, in its largest cocaine operation of the year,
arrested 14 suspects and seized 106 kgs of cocaine hidden within containers
aboard a ship that had departed from Venezuela. Italian police authorities,
in cooperation with their Lebanese counterparts, seized an additional 400 kgs
of cocaine which had been destined for the same criminal organization in
Beirut. Further investigation revealed that 50 kgs had already been sold to a
Beirut dentist and another individual. The police recovered 26 kgs of the 50
kgs total; the remaining 24 kgs had been sold on the Lebanese market for
prices ranging from $60,000 to $70,000/kg. These seizures indicate commitment
by GOL law enforcement officials during the year, but also suggest an
increased usage problem within Lebanon.
DEA sources indicate that small heroin labs operate throughout the Bekaa
Valley. Lebanese authorities deny, or at least minimize, the existence of
these labs and offer to follow up any information given to them by US law
Leanese attachment to bank secrecy laws is strong, though many officials are
receptive to suggestions on how to counter money laundering. GOL officials
believe USG concerns regarding money laundering are hypothetical. They
concede some drug money may be invested in Lebanon, but argue the small size
of the economy renders Lebanon unattractive for large-scale laundering.
Although there are no formal laws regarding the seizure of assets, the GOL
court system does account for assets, usually at the end of a trial.
In June 1995, the GOL restricted the importation and use of acetic anhydride
to ensure that it was not diverted for use in the production of heroin.
Additional work needs to be done on the enforcement of stringent end-user
certificates for all precursor chemicals.
DEA and US Embassy officials maintain a close and effective relationship with
GOL law enforcement authorities. DEA coordinates all controlled deliveries
and works closely with Lebanese authorities on all active cases.
Corruption. On June 12, a Beirut criminal court convicted Yahya Shammas, a
member of Parliament from the Bekaa Valley, to seven years' hard labor on
narcotics trafficking charges. Shammas' assets also were seized and
transferred to the Lebanese State. This case was particularly important for
Lebanon, since Shammas' parliamentary colleagues had voted to lift his
parliamentary immunity from prosecution. Authorities arrested several law
enforcement officers for participation in narcotics trafficking during the
past year. The most recent arrest was of an LAF sergeant who was involved in
storing some of the cocaine from the November seizure of 106 kgs at the Port
of Beirut. Unofficial sources indicate that corruption within the law
enforcement community is still a significant problem in Lebanon, though the
extent of narcotics-influenced corruption is unknown.
Agreements/Treaties. Lebanon and the US have no bilateral agreements on
narcotics or extradition. In March 1996, Lebanon acceded to the 1988 UN
Convention, but with reservations on disclosure provisions relating to bank
secrecy. Lebanon is also a party to the 1961 and 1971 UN drug conventions.
Cultivation/Production. The small farms which previously produced opium
and cannabis have been almost totally eradicated, according to police sources.
There are still reports that heroin labs in the Bekaa Valley process morphine
base arriving from Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The GOL authorities
claim that the labs, if they exist at all, are small, mobile and difficult to
detect. In addition, these labs are located in areas generally controlled by
elements of Hizballah and would require a large and concentrated enforcement
effort to root them out.
Drug Flow/Transit. There have been major seizures of cocaine at both the
seaport and airport during the past year, which would tend to indicate the
potential size of the problem. The LISF and LAF have made some large hashish
seizures throughout the Bekaa Valley. Syrian authorities made two impressive
hashish seizures at the Syrian-Lebanese border, and most recently a 500 kgs
hashish seizure in the Lebanese town of Ia'at. Syrian and Lebanese
authorities assert that the hashish was several years old and was "weathered"
in appearance, indicating that it had been stored for some time.
Hashish is moved most frequently through the Syrian/Lebanese border by truck
and car, and infrequently by individual couriers traveling by ship or
aircraft. Heroin and cocaine have been routed through the seaport in cargo
containers. Human couriers also have been intercepted at the airport.
Domestic Programs. Unofficial, media and anecdotal reports indicate that
drug use, especially cocaine, is increasing throughout Lebanese society. It
is difficult to determine the extent of the problem because of the lack of
accurate statistical information. There are drug rehabilitation efforts run
by church-affiliated organizations. The authorities use education programs in
the schools as the primary focus of their antidrug campaign.
IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs
US Policy Initiatives. US Embassy and DEA visits to the LISF stress that
efforts must be improved to interdict cocaine shipments, both at the airport
and seaport, and to improve border interdiction of morphine and opium base
coming into Lebanon and hashish departing Lebanon. Efforts should continue to
shut down the small heroin processing laboratories in the Bekaa Valley and
there should be a on-going eradication of residual cannabis farms. There also
should be focussed and coordinated law enforcement efforts to respond to
large-scale trafficking organizations, as well as a steady push to pass the
new antidrug legislation under review in the Parliament making money
laundering a crime. This draft legislation, formulated with the assistance of
UNDCP, would add some teeth to the fight against illegal drugs. The GOL
should work to establish an independent anti-corruption bureau which could
have a significant impact in the total counter-narcotics effort.
Bilateral Cooperation. The US and Lebanon do not have a bilateral
narcotics agreement. DEA and US Embassy officials maintain a close working
relationship with LISF and other law enforcement entities.
Road Ahead. The GOL is making important strides in its counternarcotics
effort, but there remains significant work to be done. The LISF and LAF, in
cooperation with Syrian military authorities, have had successful crop
eradication efforts. Cocaine seizures and arrests at the ports have shown
that tighter controls are having an effect. In addition, efforts to find and
dismantle heroin labs in the Bekaa would indicate that the GOL is placing a
high priority on drug enforcement. Adoption of antinarcotics legislation and
money laundering statutes, creation of an anti-corruption bureau, and
establishment of controls on precursor chemicals would provide the law
enforcement community with the tools needed to move with increased efficiency
against the tide of illegal drugs entering Lebanon.