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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs


Europe and Central Asia

BELGIUM

I. Summary

Belgium is not a major narcotics or precursor chemical producing country. Belgium is a transshipment country for illicit drugs on their way to destinations in Western Europe. Belgian law enforcement agencies have observed a continued increase in drug trafficking through Belgium from Asia and the Middle East via the Former Soviet Republics. Belgium is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and takes seriously its obligations under that Convention.

II. Status of Country

Due to its large port facilities, transportation infrastructure, and central location in Western Europe, Belgium is a transit country for illicit drugs bound for other markets in Europe. Belgium is not a significant producer of illicit drugs, nor is it a significant manufacturer of precursor chemicals. Belgian efforts to detect and block drug-related money laundering have expanded and intensified.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. In June 1997, a Parliamentary Commission published its report on Belgian drug policy. Parliament adopted the recommendations of the report which included strengthening existing money laundering laws, strengthening asset seizure and confiscation legislation, increasing international police and judicial cooperation, creation of methadone treatment programs, and improvement of drug education programs. The report also recommended assigning the lowest prosecution priority to simple possession of cannabis.

The Belgian Ministry of Justice maintains drug liaison offices in ten foreign cities with territorial competence for thirty-one countries. The drug liaison offices in Bogota, The Hague, Istanbul, Madrid, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Washington, and Wiesbaden are staffed by either Judicial Police or Gendarmerie (national police) officers. The Ministry intends to open offices in Warsaw, London, Ottawa and Pakistan as soon as budgetary resources permit. The Government of Belgium expected full EUROPOL ratification before the end of 1997.

Accomplishments. In 1997, as part of judicial reform measures, a central prosecutor was appointed to oversee drug prosecutions nationwide.

Belgium entered into bilateral police cooperation agreements with Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. These agreements are comprehensive in nature. They include the framework/guidelines for cooperation on narcotics matters. Belgium is in the process of concluding two such additional agreements with the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

In May 1997, Parliament passed legislation on international judicial cooperation regarding seizure and confiscation of drug assets. The law authorizes the Belgian judiciary to execute foreign judgments for seizure and confiscation of assets derived from drug trafficking or money laundering. This law is designed to implement provisions of the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

Parliament is currently debating organized crime legislation that endorses a broader definition of money laundering to cover other professions and activities, including notaries, financial advisors, accountants, real estate agents, and casinos.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Belgium fully met the objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Belgian law enforcement authorities pro-actively and vigorously investigate individuals and organizations involved in illegal narcotics trafficking into and through Belgium.

Belgian authorities use modern techniques which are generally effective. Interdiction efforts by Belgian customs authorities at Antwerp and Zeebrugge are exemplary. During the first three quarters of 1997, Belgian authorities in Antwerp seized more than 1,973 kilograms of cocaine, 10.4 kilograms of heroin, and more than 25,532 kilograms of cannabis. They arrested more than 53 persons in connection with these seizures.

Corruption. Corruption is not judged to be a problem within the narcotics units of the law enforcement agencies. Legal measures exist to combat and punish corruption.

Agreements and Treaties. The Government of Belgium is currently negotiating police cooperation agreements with Morocco and Russia. It expects these agreements to be signed in Spring 1998. Belgium has signed and ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Belgium is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Belgium.

Belgium is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and currently chairs the organization's ninth session (1997-98). Belgium has implemented the EU Directive on Money Laundering and participates in the Contact Committee established by the Directive.

Belgian authorities cooperate bilaterally on money laundering issues with France (TRACFIN), The Netherlands (MOT), the United States (FinCEN), Italy (Guardia di Finanza), Norway (OKOKRIM) and the UK (NCIS).

The United States and Belgium have long had an Extradition Treaty. Instruments of ratification were exchanged on an updated Extradition Treaty in Washington in July 1997. The Supplementary Treaty on Extradition, signed in 1987, was ratified by the US Congress in November 1996. Belgium has not yet ratified this Supplementary Treaty. A US/Belgium Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), signed in 1988, was approved by the Belgian Senate in July 1997 and is scheduled to be reviewed by the Belgian Chamber of Deputies in December 1997.

Belgium is a member of several international anti-drug organizations, including the Heads of European Narcotics Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA), the European Committee to Combat Drugs (CELAD), the Pompidou Group and the Dublin Group. Belgium is a major donor to the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP). Most Belgian aid is channeled through the UNDCP to crop substitution and alternative development programs in Bolivia.

Cultivation/Production. There is no significant cultivation or production of illicit drugs in Belgium.

Drug Flow/Transit. Belgium remains an important transit point for drug traffickers because of its port facilities (Antwerp is Europe's second busiest port), airports, excellent road connections to neighboring countries, and central geographic location. Most illicit drugs pass through Belgium via the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge; across the border from the Netherlands; or to a lesser degree through Brussels' Zaventem airport. Smuggling routes change constantly, but Belgian authorities believe an increasing number of drug shipments arrive from Asia and the Middle East through Eastern Europe and the NIS.

Demand Reduction. Belgium has an active anti-drug educational program which targets the country's youth. Such programs are now administered by the Regional Governments (Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels).

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Belgium is excellent and expanding. DEA and FBI enjoy close and effective cooperation with the Judicial Police and the Gendarmerie. (Note: Police restructuring has given narcotics enforcement responsibility primarily to the Gendarmerie. The Judicial Police continue to work drug-related organized crime cases.) US law enforcement agencies represented in Brussels enjoy excellent working relationships with the Belgian National Magistrates and prosecutor's offices.

Belgium participates in an informal organization known as the Egmont Group of which Belgium is a co-founder. Belgium chairs the Egmont Legal Working Group which drafted a model Memorandum of Understanding on International Cooperation on Money Laundering issues.

The Road Ahead. The United States looks forward to continued close cooperation with Belgium in combatting illicit drug trafficking and drug-related crime, and to continued Belgian participation in multilateral counternarcotics fora such as the Dublin Group and the UNDCP.

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