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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

Drug trafficking is a small but growing problem in Malta. Of increasing concern is rising drug abuse among Malta's youth, particularly ecstasy and heroin. The recent seizure of 2 kilograms of heroin at Malta International Airport was especially worrisome to Maltese authorities. According to reports, the two Egyptians carrying the drugs admitted that they had passed through the airport many times over the past year, and that the heroin was destined for the local market.

However, there is no real consensus among the various law enforcement agencies as to the size of the drug problem, with the higher echelons tending to minimize it, while the rank and file, confronted with it on a daily basis, offers a darker assessment. Some coordination problems also exist between the various agencies combatting drug trafficking and drug abuse: the police, the National Drug Intelligence Unit (NDIU), Customs, the military and SEDQA (an organization dedicated to drug and alcohol rehabilitation).

Still, the Government of Malta (GOM) has shown initiative by creating the NDIU and appointing a Police Commissioner in charge of drug matters. The Maltese welcome and benefit from all training opportunities. The DEA training course conducted in Malta in September 1997 was successful and well attended. Incidentally, the latest airport drug seizure occurred just two weeks after that course. Malta became a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention in 1996.

II. Status of Country

Malta is not now and is not likely to become in the near future a significant player in the production or trafficking of illegal drugs, or in money laundering. However, the country's large freeport container operations may be used for transfer of shipments by narcotraffickers and the features of its financial system may provide some facility for the laundering of drug money.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. During 1997, the GOM maintained its serious anti-drug stance through a continuation of efforts to combat drug importation, distribution and use. Over the past year and a half, the GOM appointed a Police Assistant Commissioner for Drug-Related Matters and created a force exclusively dedicated to the fight against drugs: the NDIU. The GOM is clearly placing great importance on aggressively combatting drugs and drug-related problems and will actively pursue illegal drug operations.

Accomplishments. Malta is not a major narcotics producer or trafficker, nor is there evidence that the country is a target for major money laundering. However, the GOM is increasingly concerned over individual use, on the increase, and over small-scale local drug trafficking.

For the first 10 months of 1997, the Maltese police conducted 578 searches, resulting in the seizure of 233 ecstasy pills, 290 grams of cocaine and 4.5 kilograms of heroin. The quantity of heroin seized during this period was almost double the amount for the whole of 1996.

Following up on the successful DEA regional seminar in April 1996, the DEA organized a two-week training seminar in September 1997, which was attended by 30 law enforcement officers (15 from the police, 5 from the armed forces, 5 from the NDIU, and 5 from Customs). The GOM's most visible counternarcotics efforts in 1997 remained in the areas of education and demand reduction. A national organization, SEDQA, coordinated these activities.

Law Enforcement Efforts. The drug problem in Malta tends to involve the sale and use of consumer quantities of illegal drugs. The police and the armed forces routinely attempt to interrupt these activities. Maltese authorities also attempt to prevent the movement of drugs through the airport and the sea terminal. Although monitoring the movement of drugs through the freeport has proved difficult because of the high volume of containers passing through, the authorities have shown they can act decisively when notified by foreign law enforcement authorities of transshipment attempts.

Corruption. Malta has appropriate laws governing official corruption. There appear to be no problems of corruption of public officials related to or associated with illegal drug activities.

Agreements and Treaties. In 1990, Malta acceded to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and became a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention in 1996. The Extradition Treaty between the GOM and the U.S, which became applicable to Malta in 1935, remains in force. The US has submitted requests to Malta under this treaty."

Cultivation/Production. There is no significant cultivation/production of narcotics in Malta. Occasionally, officials have located and destroyed small patches with a few cannabis plants.

Drug Flow/Transit. Malta's drug problems involve the importation and distribution of consumer-sized quantities of illegal drugs. At present, there is no indication from any sources that Malta is a major trafficking location. However, drug movements through the Malta freeport are impossible to quantify and probably occur, as indicated by the 1996 seizure of a container of marijuana.

Demand Reduction. Malta's government-funded agency, SEDQA, deals with all aspects of drug and alcohol abuse. The agency runs awareness and drug education programs in the school system and also organizes programs for parents at the agency's headquarters. In addition, SEDQA develops and runs local television commercials on drug awareness and education issues.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. US policy in Malta is to continue the close working relationship that exists between Maltese and US authorities on drug matters. There are no US policy initiatives specifically involving Malta. The GOM remains very interested in seeking and securing additional training whenever possible for its personnel, such as US-sponsored training opportunities.

Accomplishments. A significant seizure of heroin occurred at Malta's International Airport shortly after this training. The DEA-sponsored training that took place in Malta in September is an excellent example of the type of useful working relationship/cooperation prized by the Maltese.

The Road Ahead. We anticipate continued cooperation of the Maltese authorities whenever necessary to work on illegal drug issues of mutual interest and concern. The GOM has requested further DEA assistance, specifically assistance on the job by experienced DEA personnel. If past experience is a guide, the GOM would most probably be willing to partly or fully underwrite this assistance. SEINC 740


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