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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

The drug problem in Iceland is fairly small relative to other countries, but there is growing concern that the country might be a potential target as a drug transit point for large scale smuggling. Production of illicit drugs is marginal, which means that drugs for domestic use originate from outside the country, entering by air or sea. Money laundering cases are not yet known to exist in Iceland. The Government of Iceland (GOI) has recently adopted a much more active role in pursuing counternarcotics initiatives. These include the parliament's acceding last May to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and also the 1990 European Union Convention on Money Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of Criminal Proceeds. Amendments have been made to Iceland's penal code in order for domestic law to better implement the two Conventions.

There has been considerable financial commitment to fight drugs, as the government has increased its counternarcotics budget to $2.5 million over the next three years. The funding has been channeled into police enforcement and customs surveillance. Last July, the government completed a reorganization of police and law enforcement agencies particularly with a view towards strengthening the overall counternarcotics effort. The establishment of a special National Drug Intelligence Unit (NDIU), is a good example of the effort to centralize the struggle against drugs. The government has also launched the project "Drug-Free Iceland in 2002." This government initiative consists of a five-year program, led by the city of Reykjavik, and done in cooperation with several other European cities. Its main goal is to coordinate the nation's forces in the struggle against drugs in order to achieve a "Drug-Free Iceland" before the year 2002. With the government's intensified focus on combatting the drug issue, expectations have been raised for 1998.

II. Status of Country

Iceland is neither a significant producer of drugs nor has there been any known case of money laundering or of precursor chemicals. Iceland's remote geographical location and the cold climate account for this. Trafficking occurs on a relatively small scale compared to most other countries. Nevertheless, there is a growing concern among government officials and law enforcement authorities that Iceland might become a transit point between Europe and North America.

While Iceland has a small drug problem on a per capita basis, domestic narcotics use has been on the rise over the past few years. 1997 statistics seem to suggest a decrease in narcotics seized compared to 1996. Police officials caution, however, that this decrease in drugs seized in 1997 is an aberration, and does not really represent a significant drop in drug use. Icelandic officials regret it is extremely hard to estimate what percentage of total illicit drugs was seized.

There have been some changes in types of illicit drugs entering the market. The most popular ones over the past one or two years have been Ecstasy, amphetamines and to a much lesser extent, LSD. Recently, a new form of liquid Ecstasy has entered the market. Previously the only form of Ecstasy known to exist on the domestic market were pills. The bulk of illicit drugs entering Iceland seems to be purchased for the addict's exclusive use, alternatively for selling or financing the addict's own consumption. Because of this, it seems surprisingly easy for teenagers to obtain illicit drugs and alcohol in Iceland. This particularly applies to hashish and alcohol, but to a lesser extent to amphetamines and ecstasy. Hashish is still the most popular illicit drug used by high school students in Iceland, and the consumption of it has steadily risen over the past few years. The age trend in narcotics use has not changed noticeably as most addicts are young adults ranging from 15-25 years.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

The government is now giving a higher priority to counternarcotics law enforcement than in previous years. This is reflected by GOI progress in pushing through stricter laws, court procedures, and sentencing guidelines. The 1988 UN Drug Convention as well as the EU Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of Criminal Proceeds were ratified by parliament in May. This has led to corresponding changes in Iceland's penal code. The key amendments to the penal code affect laws governing the sale and use of alcohol, laws on illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals, customs regulations and penal institutions where convicted felons serve their jail terms. Judges have been passing stiffer sentences. Sentences now correspond directly to the amount of drugs seized. The Icelandic Supreme Court, however, has been known to ease sentences adjudicated by lower courts because of the relative "weakness" of the illicit drug involved.

The GOI has demonstrated growing concern in the fight against drugs by increasing direct funding to counternarcotics agencies and projects. Total funding is approximately $2.5 million, which is programmed for use over a three-year period. This year's funding has been channeled specifically to the narcotics police and customs surveillance.

A comprehensive restructuring of the police became effective July 1 and is the last step in a five year gradual overall reorganization of law enforcement agencies in Iceland. The focal point of the police reorganization is the establishment of a new body, the National Police Commissioner (NPC), whose main task is to oversee all police in Iceland. The NPC falls under the purview of the Minister of Justice. According to the new "Police Act," the power of investigation, prosecution and sentencing in almost all cases has been transferred from the Office of the State Prosecutor to the individual police districts (26 in Iceland) and partly to the Office of the NPC. The most serious cases will continue to be handled by the State Prosecutor. Relevant to the war on drugs, a new unit was established - the National Drug Intelligence Unit (NDIU), which is a centralized body reporting to the NPC.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Drug seizures in 1997 were significantly less than in 1996. The 1997 seizures are as follows: Hashish was 7,662 grams; which is down from 36,426 grams in 1996; 883 grams of marijuana down from 3,426 grams in 1996; 1,644 grams of amphetamines down from 6,116 grams in 1996; 126 grams of cocaine up from l0l grams in 1996; as in 1996 there has no confiscation of heroin in 1997; 1,375 Ecstasy pills were seized in 1997 down from 2,199 in 1996; 1,095 units of prescription drugs down from 5,587 in 1996 and 40 grams of cannabis seeds and 161 units of cannabis plants.

The domestic drug market can be characterized by a couple of main trends. On the one hand, there is the traditional market. It includes hashish, which for years was seen as the most dominant illicit drug in Iceland, and amphetamines, which have been gradually increasing in the 1990s. On the other hand a "new" market has emerged in the past few years, in which Ecstasy pills, Ecstasy liquid and LSD can be found.

Corruption. There are no known cases of drug-related corruption among public officials in Iceland. However, a national magazine ran an article alleging police corruption tied to known drug dealers. No indictments on governmental figures resulted from this investigation.

Agreements and Treaties. In addition to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, Iceland is a party to several agreements and conventions, among them, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. There is also an agreement between the US Government and GOI dating from 1902 and a Supplementary Treaty from 1905. Iceland also participates in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Cultivation and Production. Cultivation and production of drugs in Iceland is negligible. Cannabis seeds, which were seized by the police are significantly down to 40g in 1997 from 116 in 1996. 161 cannabis plants were seized by the police in 1997, which is a significant decrease from 1996 when 1,020 plants were found.

Drug Flow/Transit. Determining how drugs transit Iceland is still a matter of police guesswork. The narcotics police and US police run a Joint Information Coordination Center (JICC), which duty is to monitor aircraft transiting Iceland and reporting the information to the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). Cooperation between the narcotics police and customs has improved considerably in 1997. The introduction of new software has also enhanced the JICC's operational effectiveness although the GOI has yet to take action against aircraft that come up as "hits."

In 1996, the government set out to chart a new counternarcotics policy, which took effect in the beginning of 1997. A committee of specialists from various ministries was established at that time to work on evaluating and refining the previous policy and to set new goals. In mid-1997, the GOI presented a bill before parliament suggesting the establishment of a Council, which would develop a counternarcotics policy for Iceland, suggesting appropriate funding and initiating a public affairs campaign to educate the public. This Council recently went into operation taking over the role of the Committee of Specialists.

The project "Drug-Free Iceland in 2002" is key to this revitalized counternarcotics effort as it is expected to crystallize the overall GOI and city of Reykjavik approach against importing, distribution, selling and consumption of illicit drugs. The project, which is a five-year cooperative agreement between the GOI, the city of Reykjavik and several other European Cities Against Drugs (ECAD), was kicked off in early 1997. Its overall goal is to "coordinate the nation's forces in the struggle against illegal drugs, to increase preventive work, and to organize tasks and activities towards these goals." The seven main components of the project are as follows:

  • Mobilize society as a whole in the struggle against drugs;
  • Concentrate on preventive work and education;
  • Activate non-governmental organizations;
  • Cooperate with parents organizations;
  • Provide special assistance to young people at risk;
  • Encourage cooperation with grass-roots groups against drugs nationwide and in local communities; and
  • Promote customs and law enforcement.

Among the participants are various official bodies, such as government ministries and institutions, the police, customs, as well as the municipalities. Also some non-governmental organizations, business firms, the media, as well as private individuals are involved. The results of the project will gradually be evaluated by outside parties.

With the parliament's ratification of the 1988 UN Drug Convention and the 1990 EU Convention, money laundering officially became defined as a crime in Iceland. So far, however, there have been no reports of money laundering or of assets seized in Iceland.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. GOI and USG law enforcement cooperation continues to be excellent. USG actions in Iceland have focused on revitalizing a JICC cooperation, through timely sharing of information between the narcotics police and customs authorities. Also, at the request of the Icelandic authorities, the US Embassy briefed the JICC program to other Nordic organizations at this year's annual Nordic Police and Law Enforcement meeting held in Iceland.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to share information and to improve the performance of the JICC program to increase controls over potential trafficking through Iceland.


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