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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

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 significant concern.

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 1997.

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 countries.

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 port.

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 Macedonia.


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