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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

GEORGIA

I. Summary

Georgia is not a significant producer of narcotics or precursor chemicals, but is a secondary transit route for narcotics flowing from Central Asia to Europe. Although the government is aware of the potential problems, counternarcotics remained a low priority issue for Georgian law enforcement agencies, which continued to focus their efforts on perceived threats to political stability. Law enforcement agencies are over-staffed, under-equipped, poorly paid, and have a reputation for corruption. Corrupt and ineffective law enforcement, combined with Georgia's geographic location as the focal point of an emerging "Eurasian transit corridor," creates the potential for Georgia to become an important narcotics transit route in the future. The situation is exacerbated by the government's lack of control over all of its territory and borders. Responsible government officials have requested US assistance in training and equipping their personnel. Through the export control program the US has provided limited training for the border guards and customs officials. A team from the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP) visited Tbilisi in November to discuss cooperative activities.

II. Status of Country

Given its geographic location and its ambition to be the focal point of a "Eurasian transport corridor," there is considerable potential that Georgia could emerge in the near future as a major transit route. Local involvement in drug trafficking remains limited, but cigarette and alcohol smuggling are major criminal activities in Georgia. Interdiction efforts are hampered by the fact that Georgia does not have effective control of all of its territory, nor of its borders. Moreover, its border guards and customs officials are under-equipped, poorly trained and paid and Customs officials have a reputation for corruption.

Georgia is not a significant producer of narcotics or precursor chemicals, but is a secondary transit route. A small amount of marijuana is grown in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, largely for domestic consumption. Despite the small size of the economy and the rudimentary banking system, money laundering is becoming a problem. The proceeds from lucrative cigarette and alcohol smuggling are recycled through Georgia's poorly regulated banking system.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. Responsibility for counternarcotics efforts is shared by the Interior Ministry (MVD) and the Security Ministry (MGB). The MVD has primary responsibility for combating cultivation and distribution of narcotics within Georgia. The MGB has primary responsibility for interdicting the flow of narcotics through Georgia. In practice, the two agencies have competed for influence and control. In 1996, the government created an inter-agency group on narcotics control. The head of the group, Colonel Djemal Djanashia, transferred from the MVD to the MGB in 1997. Despite the existence of the group, and Djanashia's links to the two agencies, coordination problems remain. While at the MVD, Djanashia oversaw the preparation of a counternarcotics country strategy.

In addition to law enforcement activities, the strategy embraces the treatment of addicts and education of young people as keys to the long-term reduction of domestic drug use. However, Georgia lacks the resources to implement the program. Parliament ratified Georgia's accession to the 1988 UN Drug Convention in May, 1997. In concert with the UNDCP, the Georgian government has developed an initial program for meeting the Convention's objectives, however, at present, the program is not being implemented due to a lack of funding. Representatives of the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP) visited Georgia in November for discussions on areas of possible mutual cooperation.

Accomplishments. Georgia's counternarcotics accomplishments for 1997 were drug seizures. Georgia law enforcement officials confiscated 1.7 grams of cocaine paste; 1.5 kilograms of cocaine base; 2.3 kilograms of opium poppy; 7.3 kilograms of opium gum; 59.28 grams of heroin; 64.71 grams of hashish; 10.7 kilograms of marijuana and made 1383 arrests in 1997.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The government formed an interagency group on narcotics control, but counternarcotics efforts remain a low priority for Georgia. All of the relevant law enforcement agencies in Georgia suffer from a lack of resources. Their personnel are under-equipped and poorly trained.

Corruption. Corruption is a significant problem within Georgia's law enforcement agencies. In 1996, the MVD began an internal reform effort to reduce corruption. It failed to achieve any meaningful results. Parliament's Commission on Corruption charged several former senior government officials with corruption; however, no senior official currently in the government was charged. Georgia's anti-corruption efforts are hampered by the widespread acceptance of corruption within Georgian society. In Soviet times, corruption was used to shield individuals from the communist government. Petty corruption on the part of government officials is still widely tolerated as an inevitable consequence of economic hardship and low salaries. To the knowledge of the US government, no official encourages or facilitates illegal narcotics activity, although they are reportedly involved in the smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol.

Agreements and Treaties. Georgia acceeded to the 1988 UN Drug Convention in May, 1997. The Government of Georgia (GOG) has no counternarcotics or law enforcement agreements with the United States.

Cultivation and Production. The Government of Georgia's estimates on the extent of narcotics cultivation in Georgia are unreliable and do not include those areas of the country that are outside the Central Government's control. Small amounts of marijuana are grown in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, largely for domestic consumption.

Drug Flow/Transit. The Government of Georgia has no reliable statistics on the volume of drugs transiting Georgia. In 1997, drug seizures were small in scale and did not increase significantly over previous years, reflecting the fact that Georgia is still only a secondary transit route. However, the central government lacks effective control over large parts of its territory and borders, including most of its maritime border. Georgia's importance as a transit point could, therefore, grow in the near future as losses mount on traditional routes.

Demand Reduction. The national program prepared by the MVD's anti-narcotics unit is comprehensive and includes sections on prevention and treatment. However, the program has not been implemented due to resource constraints.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. United States policy on Georgia envisions a vigorous counternarcotics effort on the part of the law enforcement agencies, supported by international assistance. This effort would include aggressive interdiction activities as well as a domestic program to reduce the supply of and demand for narcotics.

There are no existing bilateral or multilateral narcotics agreements. United States assistance efforts have focused on promoting legal reform as a precursor to law enforcement assistance. Official corruption needs to be reduced for general assistance efforts to be effective. However, the border guards and customs officials have received limited US training (through the export control program), and the embassy has recommended greater engagement with the MVD on selective issues, including counternarcotics. Training programs for the MVD's anti-narcotics unit are in the planning stages.

The Road Ahead. The lack of resources and the press of other priorities make it unlikely that Georgia will increase its counternarcotics efforts in the near future without encouragement from the US and the international community. Georgia's potential as a major transit point for narcotics argues in favor of such encouragement.

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