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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 Government of Italy (GOI) is firmly committed to the fight against narcotics, but Italian organized crime groups remain involved in international drug trafficking and money laundering. GOI cooperation with US law enforcement agencies is exemplary. As a result of this cooperation, several major organized crime figures and fugitives were arrested in 1997. The GOI is an active player in the international fight against drug trafficking, providing training and financial support for antidrug initiatives in various Latin American and Eastern European nations.

II. Status of Country

Italy is a large drug consumer nation and is used as a transshipment point for other Western European nations. Italy is utilized as a site for money laundering of drug proceeds. The GOI and US law enforcement agencies have conducted successful joint investigations into money laundering. The GOI maintains tight control on shipments of precursor chemicals. Italian law requires that shipments of precursor chemicals from manufacturers be reported to the Central Counterdrug Agency (Direzione Centrale per Servizi Antidroga) which in turn notifies recipient countries.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. Italy continues to promote the TELEDRUG system (a "real time" system facilitating sharing of drug intelligence information among nations) in which thirteen countries participate. Due to budgetary constraints and domestic political interests, Italy was not able to meet its goal of establishing an International Law Enforcement and Judicial Training Center. The Italian radical party has proposed legislation to legalize some controlled substances such as hashish and marijuana. Public opinion surveys indicate that 70 percent of the Italian public is opposed to such legalization. The three police services have active specialized anti-drug units. The Central Counterdrug Agency (Direzione Centrale per Servizi Antidroga) has expanded its drug liaison officer force to nine representatives with responsibility for twenty nations.

Accomplishments. In 1997, several major organized crime figures were arrested. Earlier this year, Italian national Pino Arlacchi was named Director of the UNDCP. Arlacchi gained national recognition as a leader in Italy's fight against the mafia.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The GOI devotes extraordinary resources to the fight against drug trafficking. In past years, the GOI has strengthened law enforcement's capability to conduct this fight by legalizing investigative techniques such as undercover drug purchases by police and controlled deliveries.

Corruption. In 1997, several police officers were arrested and charged with corruption. There is no indication that drug-related corruption has reached higher levels of the government.

Agreements and Treaties. Italy is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Both Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties are in place between Italy and the US. Italy is a member of the Italian-American-Canadian-French Working Group, as well as the bilateral Italian-American Working Group, which recently met in Washington DC, on October 8-10, 1997. Italy is also a member of the European Community and thus participates in the following groups and forums addressing narcotics issues: Dublin Group, UNDCP, Pompidou Group, Europol, and EU cabinet and attendant committees and expert groups. Italy is a party to the WCO's International Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance for the Prevention, Investigation, and Repression of Customs Offences "Nairobi Convention" Annex X on Assistance in Narcotics Cases. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Italy.

Cultivation and Production. Italy is not a significant drug producer, although small scale cocaine conversion laboratories, operated by Colombian nationals, have been discovered in Italy.

Drug Flow/Transit. Italy is a transit point for southwest Asian heroin destined for local consumption and for shipment elsewhere in Europe. The "Balkan route" (overland from Turkey to Greece, Albania, and former Yugoslav countries which have ferry boat connections to Italy) is still being used, as evidenced by the current increase in heroin seizures. Thousands of Albanian displaced persons fled to Italy in 1997, and many of them have been arrested for trafficking in cannabis products. Cocaine from Colombia, Argentina, and Brazil arrives in Italy by sea, overland from Spain and France, and by air. The cocaine is destined for use in Italy as well as for transit to Northern Europe. Cocaine seizures in Italy have been increasing. In 1997, Italy entered into the Schengen Agreement which allows EU citizens to travel freely within the European Union without passing border controls.

Demand Reduction. The Central Counterdrug Office has appointed a full time police official to develop a DARE program for Italy. Italy has 570 rehabilitation centers operated by the Ministry of Health, and 586 rehabilitation centers operated with different levels of government funding. These centers serve an addict population of approximately 140,000.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. The US and Italy continue to enjoy exemplary cooperation on counternarcotics efforts. US and Italian law enforcement authorities continue to carry out numerous joint operations against drug traffickers, money launderers, and organized crime. Cooperation on extradition and mutual legal assistance is generally very good.

The Road Ahead. The US will continue to work closely with Italy on law enforcement operations and investigations targeting international narcotics trafficking networks and organized crime.


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