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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


I. Summary

Centrally located on the Balkan route, Bulgaria is an important transit point between Turkey and western Europe for southwest Asian heroin and southeast Asian marijuana. Authorities have seized South American cocaine in Bulgaria en route to western Europe, and the heroin-essential chemical Acetic Anhydride en route to Turkey. Bulgaria also has a very minor incidence of domestic cannabis cultivation. Bulgaria is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. In 1997, the Government of Bulgaria (GOB) enacted extensive anti-crime legislation, issued decrees on precursor chemical control, drafted a new and more comprehensive money laundering law, began preparation of a new narcotics control law, spearheaded diplomatic initiatives to increase regional counternarcotics cooperation, introduced a compulsory school-based demand reduction program, and gave greater focus to combatting amphetamine production, culminating in the raid of a large scale production lab. Domestic drug use, while relatively low, continues to increase. Law enforcement authorities cooperated actively with US and third country counterparts on counternarcotics cases and in an increased number of controlled deliveries.

II. Status of Country

Bulgaria is a significant drug-transit country centrally situated on the traditional Balkan route between Turkey and Serbia, serving also as a transit point between Turkey and both Romania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Small quantities of opium poppies and cannabis are grown in Bulgaria. Clandestine labs produce amphetamines, and diverted Acetic Anhydride (AA) is transported from Bulgaria to Turkey.

In Bulgaria's transition from a socialist to a more market-oriented system, large-scale redistribution of ownership rights has been the occasion for laundering illegally diverted state assets and other illegally obtained funds. Similarly, CD piracy, auto theft, protection rackets and financial fraud are lucrative sources of proceeds for organized crime, which is active in many sectors of the economy. Funds from unsecured insider lending, which contributed to the country's 1996 banking sector collapse, have largely been laundered through expatriation. The new Bulgarian government, which has made combatting organized crime and corruption a priority and adopted considerable new anti-crime legislation, is engaged in efforts to improve money laundering legislation and to track diverted funds.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. In compliance with obligations taken by Bulgaria under the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the Council of Ministers in February 1997 issued two decrees controlling the export, import, trade, production and use of controlled chemical substances used in narcotics production (precursors). Bulgaria's new parliament, elected in April, has adopted extensive anti-crime legislation and penal code amendments which, inter alia, expedite judicial processing, establish punitive measures that can be taken against organized crime and racketeering, criminalize and penalize tax evasion, permit the use of wire tapping and surveillance data as evidence, provide some witness protection and increase the severity of sentences for numerous crimes including narcotics trafficking. The GOB is also preparing a comprehensive new law for the control of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals, delaying for the moment its revision of the 1996 draft counternarcotics master plan. The draft law, which will include the 1997 decrees on precursor chemicals as well as relevant penal code and procedural penal code amendments, is to be considered by the Council of Ministers in April 1998 and thereafter presented to Parliament.

A law defining and realigning the functions of the component services of the Ministry of Interior was adopted in 1997, and a similar law regulating customs is under parliamentary consideration. A new draft money laundering law, which criminalizes money laundering, includes provisions on asset seizure, and otherwise considerably improves on the largely ineffective 1996 law, has been prepared.

Diplomatically, Bulgaria has spearheaded regional cooperation in counternarcotics. On October 3, at a GOB-initiated meeting in Varna, the presidents of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey signed a joint declaration on fighting international criminal threats, including narcotics trafficking. In a joint statement on December 3 at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Bulgarian and Turkish Defense Ministers also stressed the need for mapping out specific measures for fighting international crime on a multinational basis within the EAPC framework.

At the working level, through a number of high-level visits, and in Ministry of Interior protocols, the Governments of Bulgaria and Turkey have coordinated closely this year on issues of narco-trafficking, terrorism and organized crime.

Bulgaria is participating in a World Customs Organization program to strengthen regional customs border enforcement and has consulted extensively with the EU on combatting money laundering through strengthened legislation. A UNDCP project renovating and equipping Kapitan Andreevo, the Bulgarian border point most heavily trafficked in drugs, was completed in 1997. Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia are participating in a multi-year, UNDCP-PHARE program initiated in December to increase counternarcotics land, sea and air border control, improve controlled deliveries; and develop intelligence information systems. (The EU Phare Multi-Country programme for the Fight Against Drugs seeks to strengthen the anti-drug capacities of 11 Central and Eastern European states and to assist those states in preparing for a role in EU's anti-drug strategy plan.)

Accomplishments. Noteworthy developments toward achieving compliance with the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention include the Council of Minister's decrees increasing precursor control, the drafting of a new money laundering law (to include asset seizure) and preparation of a new narcotics control law, increased Bulgarian participation and regional cooperation in controlled deliveries, diplomatic initiatives to increase regional counternarcotics cooperation, the introduction of a compulsory school-based demand reduction program, and a greater focus on combatting amphetamine production, culminating in the raid of a large scale production lab. Regular meetings of the National Council for Combatting Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking, led by the Minister of Health, increased interministerial cooperation.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Bulgarian law enforcement officials seized over 2,370 kg of illegal drugs at border points, airports, and inland points of distribution, including a 220 kg seizure of amphetamines transitting Bulgaria from Romania to Turkey and the first seizure of Ecstasy. Authorities also made a 3420-liter seizure of the precursor chemical, AA. Bulgarian law enforcement authorities also raided two clandestine amphetamine production labs in 1997, the second of which was for industrial production of amphetamines, and 500 liters of liquid amphetamine were seized. In all, the GOB made 151 arrests.

Bulgarian law enforcement cooperated with European and US counterparts and international organizations in focusing efforts on major traffickers. Bulgaria's police and customs officials cooperated in a wide range of international controlled deliveries, including their first with Russia.

Bulgarian Customs has reduced the number of regional customs houses from 16 to 5, while decentralizing some authority from Sofia to the remaining regional houses. Customs manpower has been reduced from 4,100 to 3,690, and there have been substantial personnel changes with the change in government. The Ministry of Interior's Central Service for Combatting Organized Crime has been upgraded to a national service with regional offices, and its border guard has been changed to a border police. A new section for drug control has been set up in the Criminal Division of the National Police with a regional presence nationwide. The country's priority on counternarcotics law enforcement remained constant.

Corruption. Corruption is widespread in Bulgaria, including among police and customs officials. However, the USG has no specific information that senior GOB officials are involved in drug trafficking or other narcotics-related crimes. The new Bulgarian government has made the fight against organized crime and corruption a major part of its program and has launched an extensive reform effort to strengthen anti-crime legislation. In the fall of 1997, a temporary parliamentary commission met for two months to investigate institutional problems in the fight against crime and corruption and to propose executive measures and legislation for their elimination. Bulgaria signed the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1997.

Agreements and Treaties. Bulgaria is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1990 Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of Proceeds from Crime.

The US-Bulgarian extradition treaty dates from 1924. Bulgaria is also party to the 1957 Council of Europe Convention on Extradition, the 1959 European Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Penal Measures, and the 1983 Council of Europe Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons. It also has a bilateral Treaty with Turkey for the Transfer of Convicted Persons. Bulgarian customs has MOU's on mutual assistance and cooperation with a number of its European counterparts and it negotiating or updating others. This year, Bulgaria signed an agreement with the Customs Administration of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.

Cultivation and Production. Law enforcement officials found and eradicated 21 hectares of illegal cannabis cultivation in 1997, 2.5 times the 8.263 hectares (incorrectly reported in last year's INCSR as 8,263) erradicated in 1996. The Ministry of Interior, the Prosecutor's Office and local authorities launched a major cannabis eradication awareness campaign in the three regions most involved. No opium poppy cultivation was identified or eradicated this year.

Law enforcement officials do not routinely calculate crop size and yields for illegal narcotics crops. When necessary, case-specific determination is made based on the weight of the dry leaves yielded from one square meter times the dimensions of the field. In general, yield calculations for illegal narcotics crops are difficult since it is not unusual, for example, to find cannabis hidden in a field of maize.

Drug Flow/Transit. The main illegal drug transiting Bulgaria is heroin from the Golden Crescent, although marijuana and South American cocaine also transit Bulgaria. The Balkan route from Turkey through Bulgaria to Serbia, and other overland routes north to Romania and west to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are most frequently used. The precursor chemical Acetic Anhydride, possibly produced in Bulgaria or coming from Macedonia is transported from Bulgaria to Turkey. Bulgaria has seen an increase in heroin trafficking and in heroin seizures this year. There were no maritime narcotics seizures in 1997.

Demand Reduction. The drug abuse problem in Bulgaria is small but growing. Experts estimate that in this nation of 8.3 million people, there 25,000 to 35,000 heroin users, less than 10 percent of whom are in treatment. Cocaine is too expensive for all but the wealthy. Use of marijuana and Ecstasy are new problems but growing rapidly. Increases in drug consumption have been particularly noteworthy among the marginalized Roma population, in prisons, in localized geographic areas, and among traffickers.

Demand reduction is receiving increased attention in Bulgaria. This year, for the first time, the Ministry of Education has made compulsory in schools nationwide the teaching of health promotion modules on substance abuse. There is also a WHO program for health promotion in 30 target schools. Both the Bulgarian National Center for Addictions and the Open Society Foundation provide training seminars on drug abuse for school teachers nationwide. There are also municipal demand reduction programs co-sponsored by the National Center for Addictions and the Institute of Public Health in six major cities, and a number of smaller communities. Three universities provide professional training in drug prevention.

For drug treatment, 35 out-patient units and 10-12 in-patient facilities exist nationwide. The National Center for Addictions has psychiatric units in 20 regional centers. Specialized professional training in drug treatment and demand reduction has been provided through programs sponsored by UNDCP, EU PHARE and the Council of Europe's Pompidou Group.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. The USG seeks to promote increased attention to the problems of narcotics trafficking and money laundering, to assist Bulgarian law enforcement and anti-crime legislative reform efforts with training, advisory assistance and some equipment, and to encourage further cooperation between Bulgarian and other law enforcement agencies, including DEA, the FBI, and US Customs.

Bilateral law enforcement cooperation between law enforcement officials in the US and Bulgaria remained excellent. Over the past year, US bilateral assistance for law enforcement and counternarcotics has focused on training, including a US Customs counternarcotics train-the-trainer course, FBI training in auto theft investigations, training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary, mid-level police training, and US Secret Service courses in computer forensics and in forensic applications to combat financial crime and counterfeiting. The USG also provided advisory assistance to the GOB in its penal code and procedural penal code reform.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to encourage the GOB in its anti-drug efforts, in combatting money laundering, in drafting and implementing its anti-crime legislative reforms and in its mutual cooperation with US law enforcement. It will work with the GOB to identify its law enforcement training, advisory and equipment needs and to provide limited assistance to meet those needs. The USG will also promote counternarcotics cooperation with regional and western European countries and encourage western European assistance and UNDCP support for Bulgarian law enforcement authorities.


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