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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

CZECH REPUBLIC

I. Summary

The Czech Republic is a transit country for illicit drug smuggling of heroin originating in Turkey, the Middle East, and South Asia; cocaine from South America; and cannabis from Nigeria, Tunisia and Pakistan bound for Western Europe. Domestically, methamphetamine abuse is the most serious drug problem, but heroin abuse is growing. Drug abuse among young people is more prevalent, and is occurring at younger ages. In 1997, Czech authorities recorded an increase in narcotics-related arrests and prosecutions. A law passed in October 1997 expands restrictions on a range of controlled substances, newly including hemp and poppy seed crops. Legislation proposed for 1998 will seek to regulate precursor chemicals and tighten possession laws. Cooperation between Czech authorities, US and European counterparts is excellent, and training and assistance programs have been effective. The Czech Republic is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Czech police estimate about 20 percent of the illicit drugs entering the country are consumed domestically. Another 20 percent are seized, and the remaining 60 percent are smuggled out again. Kosovar Albanians dominate much of the domestic drug market, although Turks, Romanians, Nigerians, and Czech nationals are also active. Czech authorities suspect that Russian and Kosovar Albanian groups have agreed to "carve up" Czech territory, reserving narcotics trade for the Albanians, while allowing the Russians predominant control of racketeering and prostitution. Cocaine trafficking from South America continues to grow, coordinated in several 1997 cases by Czech emigres residing in Peru and Colombia.

Out of a population of 10 million, Czech authorities estimate some 200,000 are dependent on drugs, although they lack accurate statistics on hard core addicts. Pervitin, an inexpensive, locally-produced stimulant, is widely abused, as is marijuana. Heroin is the second most widely-abused drug; readily available in major Czech cities, taken intravenously by many first-time users. Cocaine is priced beyond the reach of most Czechs, limiting consumption mainly to "drug tourists" from western Europe.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. In mid-1997, the Czech National Drug Commission (NDC) emerged from a prolonged leadership crisis when the Prime Minister reinstated its Coordinator. Participants in the NDC include the Ministries of Education, Health, Social Welfare, Interior, Justice and Defense. In 1997, NDC presented to Parliament its second three-year strategy for 1998-2000, which foresees a balance between enforcement and expanded prevention and rehabilitation measures.

In October 1997, the Parliament passed a law that tightens controls on narcotics and psychotropic substances, including a new reporting requirement on the cultivation and harvesting of poppy seeds and hemp. The law also enhances substance controls by requiring liscensing for manufacturers, importers, exporters, health-care and research institutes that produce or handle such substances. NDC is drafting a bill for submission to Parliament in early 1998 to regulate precursor chemicals and criminalize possession of defined quantities of narcotics and psychotropic drugs in an effort to target dealers.

Accomplishments. To implement the 1988 UN Drug Convention and enhance domestic anti-drug efforts, Czech authorities in 1997 made progress in the following areas:

A core of 18 national police investigators completed training in counternarcotics specialties. Ten month statistics for 1997 reveal the greatest increase in arrests in the drug-active areas of Central Bohemia where these specialized officers were deployed.

Cooperation was expanded with US and European counterparts, leading to a greater number of Czech citizens arrested abroad on drug charges as a result of international investigations.

Despite government-wide austerity measures that cut the Interior Ministry's budget by over 8 percent, domestic arrests and prosecutions increased, while police staffing and training in the narcotics field expanded.

Additionally, Czech police in 1997 improved their ability to operate across jurisdictions, working with detectives and prosecutors to secure arrests and successfully prosecute cases, particularly through increased undercover operations.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Through the first ten months of 1997, Czech police reported 3597 investigations related to narcotics offenses, leading to 3573 court charges filed and 1434 arrests, almost a 50 percent increase in all categories over 1996 figures. In 1997, the Czech National Antidrug Center (similar to DEA) introduced counternarcotics instruction into the overall training for all regional and municipal police. As a result of this effort, the number of small methamphetamine labs closed by local authorities rose sharply in 1997. (Final Czech official statistics for 1997, including seizures, are expected in January 1998.)

Corruption. The USG has no evidence of official narcotics-related corruption in the Czech Republic.

Agreements and Treaties. The Government of the Czech Republic (GOCR) is party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. It has also signed the Council of Europe's Convention on Money Laundering, Seizure, and Confiscation of Proceeds from Crime. There is an Extradition Treaty in effect between the US and Czechoslovakia, which applies to the Czech Republic. The US and the Czech Republic have negotiated an updated extradition treaty, as well as a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The US-Czech MLAT is expected to be signed in early 1998. Finally, the USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of the Czech Republic.

Cultivation and Production. There is no coca cultivation. Domestic production of marijuana and production of opium is insignificant. Permission to grow cannabis or opium poppies must be obtained from the Ministry of Health, but producers are not centrally registered and there is no accurate evaluation of production levels. This will change with the enactment of the above-mentioned October 1997 law. Heretofore, production of poppy seeds (used widely in Czech cuisine) and cultivation of cannabis was virtually unrestricted. Cannabis production is not illegal unless it is produced in quantity for purposes of ingestion as marijuana. The law is vague, however, and the NDC reports considerable inconsistency in the prosecution of this statute in many Czech jurisdictions. The Czech National Antidrug Center has appealed for a standardized, enforceable interpretation of the law concerning cannabis/marijuana.

Illicit Refining and Manufacturing. The Czech Republic is a major producer of precursor and essential chemicals for pharmaceutical use, but does not legally control the production and export of precursors. NDC is drafting a bill for submission to Parliament in 1998 that would include control for precursor chemicals. Czech law enforcement, however, cooperates efficiently with international counterparts to stop illicit exports of precursors when made aware of them. Czech national anti-drug police have seized imports of precursor chemicals originating from Slovakia, Hungary, and China, and amphetamines originating in Poland.

The major substance abused in the Czech Republic is Pervitin, a stimulant made from Ephedrine, which is believed to be produced in small clandestine laboratories and a limited number of larger ones. Consumption is primarily domestic but Pervitin is also exported to Germany and Canada. In a new development in 1997, Czech nationals reportedly were paid by illicit drug manufacturers to travel to other areas of Europe to prepare Pervitin on site, thereby reducing the risk of arrest for carrying illicit products.

Demand Reduction. As a country in transition, the Czech Republic has struggled to find a balance between protecting society and protecting individual rights. National authorities acknowledge that abuse of controlled substances poses a threat to society, but they have been reluctant to restrict an individual's right to experiment, imposing lenient standards for "personal use" of drugs. This attitude has hardened recently, with evidence that a younger group of users has expanded its choice of drugs to include heroin, cocaine, and (in isolated cases) crack. The government's gradually stricter orientation toward abusers is reflected in the NDC's draft bill on precursor chemicals and possession.

There is also increased recognition of the need to forestall drug abuse through preventive education. NDC has revised planning for national school-based abuse prevention programs, seeking expertise from the USG and other foreign donors for curriculum development and instructor training on narcotics and alternate social behaviors.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. Czech authorities aggressively sought USG assistance in 1997 to counter narcotics trafficking and consumption. Czech ministries and police authorities joined in an international conference held February 11-14 in Prague under the auspices of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the European Commission (EC). DEA also conducted training for Czech forensic chemists, health inspectors, and narcotics enforcement managers. Other US law enforcement agencies conducted a financial fraud seminar in June, and a financial investigative techniques seminar in October for Czech finance and police officials designed to enhance skills to combat money laundering.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to support the Czech Republic's efforts to strengthen its counternarcotics capabilities. A major area of concentration will be assisting in the development of curriculum materials and training of trainers for the school-based drug abuse prevention programs. Despite the Czech Republic's "graduation" in 1997 from the USAID foreign assistance program, support for counternarcotics training and education will continue through programs at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest and from other sources of funding.

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