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
Greece is on a transit route to Western Europe for narcotics produced in
the Near East and South Asia. Border crossings with Turkey are used in the
transit of heroin and hashish. Greek authorities report that drug abuse,
particularly of heroin, is increasing.
There is excellent cooperation between Greek and US law enforcement
agencies. The Government of Greece (GOG) actively participates in
international anti-drug organizations such as the Financial Action Task
Force (FATF) and the Dublin Group, in which it chairs the Balkans/Near East
Regional Working Group. Greece is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention,
and adheres to the goals and principles of the Convention.
II. Status of Country
Greece's geography, particularly its extensive coastline and numerous
islands make it a favored drug transshipment route to Western Europe. Two
major Balkan drug routes pass through Greece: from Turkey through Greece
and Albania to Italy, and from Turkey through Greece to Bulgaria to Central
and Western Europe.
The domestic market for illicit drugs is small, but is
growing--particularly for heroin--at a rate which alarms GOG
authorities. The GOG official in charge of counternarcotics policy
estimates that approximately 25,000 - 30,000 persons in Greece use heroin
on a regular basis. In addition to heroin, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy,
barbiturates, amphetamines, and locally grown marijuana are also
used. Although Greece is not considered a major financial or money
laundering center, money laundering is recognized by the government as a
While not a major producer, supplier, or transshipment point for
precursor chemicals, Greece has a special customs unit that tracks and
investigates chemical imports and exports.
III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997
Policy Initiatives. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Unit (SDOE) of
the Ministry of Finance, established by legislation in 1995, became
operational in April 1997. DEA representatives from the US Embassy
participated in a money laundering seminar organized by SDOE in July
An interministerial Financial Intelligence Unit began operating in
January. It reviews reports of suspected money laundering efforts submitted
by financial institutions, authorizes investigations by SDOE, and
recommends cases for prosecution. 27 cases were forwarded to the prosecutor
for investigation and possible prosecution in 1997. The Bank of Greece also
implemented a campaign to educate financial institutions about reporting
requirements and methods of detecting money laundering attempts.
The Ministers of Health and Justice approved the extension of the
government's network of methadone treatment facilities to Thessaloniki and
other major cities in Greece. The decision had not been implemented by
year's end; OKANA, the Ministry of Health's demand reduction agency, will
run the new centers.
The Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with OKANA and the Ministry of
Health, undertook the creation of a treatment facility for prison inmates
addicted to drugs. The center, which will be located in Avlona, is expected
to open in 1998.
Accomplishments. The activation of the Financial Crimes
Enforcement Unit (SDOE) of the Ministry of Finance marked a significant
step in the implementation of 1995 legislation.
Law Enforcement Efforts. The Central Narcotics Council, composed
of representatives from the Ministries of Public Order, Finance, and
Merchant Marine, coordinates the GOG's drug enforcement
activities. Cooperation between US and Greek law enforcement officials is
excellent. Although Greek laws permit the seizure of assets related to drug
convictions, they do not permit the sharing of seized assets with other
Due to budgetary constraints, the GOG is unable to devote adequate
resources to anti-narcotics activities. As a result, police equipment is
often outdated and training is infrequent.
Following up on a December 1996 raid of an illegal drug warehouse which
distributed anabolic steroids to customers in the US, police have continued
to seize assets and illegal drugs. $3 million in cash and 87,000 dosage
units have been seized to date in the operation.
In early May, police and SDOE seized approximately four tons of
marijuana concealed in a shipping container in the Port of Piraeus. Later
the same month, the authorities seized 6.5 tons of hashish in the same
Corruption. Some Greek officials concede that corruption within
the police force is a problem. Although anti-corruption laws exist, low
police salaries leave some officers vulnerable to bribery. The Ministry of
Public Order, with the help of the US government, is in the process of
setting up a Bureau of Internal Affairs to combat the problem.
Agreements and Treaties. Greece ratified the 1988 UN Drug
Convention in 1992, and meets the Convention's goals and objectives
relating to drug cultivation, distribution, sale, transport, law
enforcement, transit cooperation, and demand reduction. Greece also passed
implementing legislation for essential and precursor chemical controls. An
agreement between the GOG and the USG to exchange information on narcotics
trafficking has been in force since 1928, and an Extradition Treaty has
been in force since 1932. The USG has initiated the negotiation of a Mutual
Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the GOG; as yet, Greece has not
responded to US overtures. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual
Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Greece.
Cultivation/Production. Cannabis, cultivated in small amounts for
local consumption, is the only illicit drug produced in Greece.
Drug Flow/Transit. Greece is a major transshipment route to
Western Europe for heroin from Turkey, hashish from the Middle East, and
heroin, Ecstasy, and marijuana from South Asia. A small portion also goes
on to the US, including Turkish heroin that is traded for Latin American
cocaine. Hashish is off-loaded in remote areas of the country and
transported to Western Europe by boat or overland. Larger shipments are
smuggled into Greece in shipping containers, on bonded "TIR" trucks, in
automobiles, on trains, and in buses. Such trucks typically enter Greece
via Turkish border crossings, then cross the Adriatic by ferry to
Italy. Nigerian drug organizations smuggle heroin and cocaine through the
Athens airport, and increasingly through the Aegean Islands, from
Turkey. Greek authorities report increasing cocaine shipments from Colombia
to Greece. The police have raided several organizations selling anabolic
steroids, which are not a controlled substance in Greece, by mail to
purchasers in the US.
Demand Reduction. OKANA, the demand reduction agency of the Greek
Ministry of Health, coordinates all demand reduction efforts. It develops
and administers information and prevention programs, runs treatment centers
for substance abusers, and coordinates with other agencies involved in
narcotics treatment and prevention.
IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs
DEA hosts monthly coordination meetings attended by representatives of
the Greek Coast Guard, the National Police, Customs, SDOE, Interpol, and
drug liaison officers from foreign embassies.
The US Embassy maintains regular contact with SDOE and will facilitate a
planned visit by the US Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
(FinCen) to SDOE early in 1998.
USIS regularly distributes literature on drug prevention, and
periodically arranges background briefings with DEA officers for local
journalists. USIS arranged for three representatives of Greek
counternarcotics NGOs to attend a December conference in Nicosia. The
office is currently coordinating an early 1998 visit by a US government
speaker on the topic of money laundering.
The Road Ahead. The USG will encourage the GOG to continue to
participate actively in international organizations such as the Dublin
Group. DEA will continue to seek funding to offer training to Greek
officials. DEA has arranged for the Department of Defense to conduct a
firearms seminar in 1998 for police from Greece, Bulgaria, and