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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

Opium cultivation in Turkey is limited to the highly controlled licit, pharmaceutical opium crop. There is no evidence of diversion of licit crops, and illicit cultivation remains completely dormant. Turkey is, however, a major link in the most important transit route for southwest Asian opiates moving to Europe, and Turkey is home to a large number of laboratories refining opium raw materials into heroin. As much as 75 per cent of heroin seized in Europe has been processed in or smuggled through Turkey. Turkey is a producer of limited amounts of illicit marijuana and is a vital nexus in the transit route for synthetic drugs like captagon, but as with heroin, there is little conclusive evidence that illicit narcotics produced in Turkey or transitting Turkey have a significant effect on the United States. Consumption of narcotics in Turkey is relatively low, but the Turks recognize an increase in the abuse of opiates and cannabis.

Turkey is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Anti-money laundering legislation, conforming to FATF recommendations, was belatedly passed in 1996, and regulations to implement those laws were enacted in 1997. The 1988 UN Drug Convention was signed by Turkey in 1988, approved by the Turkish Parliament in 1995 and formally ratified in 1996.

II. Status of Country

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the United States Government recognize Turkey as a "traditional" poppy growing country for the licit opiate market. Cultivation is controlled, carefully monitored and there are no indications of diversion to illicit channels. Farming inefficiencies and relatively poor alkaloid content make Turkish poppies only marginally commercial for opiate production (poppy seeds are also a valuable food crop). There is no evidence of illicit poppy cultivation. Other drugs produced in Turkey, marijuana primarily, have no significant impact on the United States.

Turkey is the transit and processing point for most of the heroin that is abused in Europe, and Turkish criminal syndicates control much of the narcotics market in western Europe. The discovery of processing labs and interception of large lots of heroin precursor chemicals such as acetic anhydride indicate that Turkey has become a major refining center for illicit opium products. While the total amount of heroin and less refined opium products that enter Turkey is not certain, DEA estimates that between four and six tons of heroin transit Turkey each month en route to western Europe. We continue to monitor the extent to which the heroin that transits Turkey impacts on the United States. Turkish law enforcement agencies are aware of the role Turkey plays as a narcotics gateway and they respond aggressively.

Anti-money laundering legislation has only recently been enacted. Implementing regulations are complete and the Financial Crimes Investigative Board has been established. FATF and United States observers await the results of Turkish enforcement efforts. Money laundering and corruption are important topics on the country's political agenda. For example, the parliament passed legislation in 1997 calling for the closure of all 78 Turkish casinos, because they are allegedly used to launder proceeds from narcotics trafficking and other criminal activities.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. Turkey stepped up efforts to meet FATF anti-money laundering recommendations. The Ministry of Finance has established a Financial Crimes Investigation Board to conduct studies for the prevention of money laundering, exchange information with international organizations, and investigate money laundering cases. The creation of the Board follows passage of anti-money laundering legislation, which criminalizes the laundering of proceeds of narcotics trafficking and other criminal activities, and includes provisions for controlled delivery and asset seizure.

Accomplishments. Enactment of strong regulations implementing Turkey's anti-money laundering laws was the most significant accomplishment of 1997.

Law Enforcement Efforts. During 1997, Turkish law enforcement agencies, including the Turkish National Police, the Jandarma (rural police), Customs and Coast Guard, have seized over three tons each of heroin and hashish, and hundreds of thousands of captagon pills. A total of 3,634 drug-related arrests were made. The Turks maintained close working relationships with counterparts in the United States and many European nations.

Corruption. Turkey is still coming to terms with the effects of the 1996 "Susurluk" corruption scandal, which linked public officials and parliamentarians with drug traffickers, money laundering, political dirty tricks and extra-judicial killings. The Turkish press has closely followed developments, and public outrage led to the establishment of a parliamentary commission to investigate links between criminal gangs, drug traffickers and state officials. Parliament is presently considering recommendations from the non-partisan commission to further tighten banking and financing laws.

Agreements and Treaties: The United States and Turkey have long-standing bilateral treaties covering extradition and mutual assistance in criminal matters, as well as a narcotics assistance protocol. Turkey has ratified the 1988 UN Drugs Convention, and is a member of the FATF.

Cultivation and Production. Opium poppies are grown by licensed farmers for pharmaceutical and food products. This licit cultivation is strictly controlled and diversions to the illicit market are not tolerated. The long-term commercial viability of the Turkish licit poppy industry is threatened by the low alkaloid content of Turkish poppies and by inefficient farming practices, but Turkey has begun taking steps to make its licit poppy crop more useful to the pharmaceutical industry. Cannabis is cultivated in Turkey and occasionally exported as hashish. Turkish cannabis products have no impact upon the United States.

Drug Flow and Transit. Turkey's position astride the main overland trade route between Asia and Europe makes it a significant transit point for narcotics. Morphine base and heroin from Pakistan and Afghanistan are smuggled into Turkey across Turkey's eastern frontier or through Turkish ports. Non-heroin opiates are often refined into heroin in laboratories near Istanbul or in the more isolated southeastern regions. Drugs are moved most often in truck loads, but are also transported in bulk by ship and air cargo, and in smaller lots by private car, packed by air travelers or by mail. Turkish officials report that narcotics smuggling is an important source of revenue for Kurdish radical organizations.

The DEA estimates that between four and six tons of heroin transit Turkey each month; three quarters of the heroin abused in Europe transits Turkey. Seizures in the United States of heroin that has transited Turkey are an infrequent occurrence. Although the street price of heroin in the United States is nearly twice the price of heroin in Europe, there is insufficient evidence that heroin that is refined in Turkey or has transited there has a significant effect upon the United States. We continue to monitor the transit of heroin through Turkey and will add Turkey to the majors list if evidence becomes available indicating a significant effect upon the United States.

There are persistent reports of Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) involvement in narcotics trafficking through Turkey. The PKK, a terrorist, ethnic separatist group based in the predominantly Kurdish Turkish-Iranian-Iraqi border region, reportedly uses "taxes" extracted from narcotics traffickers and refiners to finance its operations, and may be more directly involved in transporting and marketing narcotics in Europe.

As the primary stopover and consolidation point on the "Balkan Route," Turkey is also a centre for captagon trafficking to the Middle East and beyond. DEA and Turkish reports of seizures of precursor chemicals and several million doses of captagon in Turkey over the last three years, and the arrest of Turkish captagon traffickers across the Middle East, indicate the existence of a significant Turkish captagon smuggling network.

Demand Reduction. Two drug rehabilitation facilities operate in Turkey, treating both drug addicts and alcoholics. Narcotics consumption is not perceived to be a major problem, although there is a general awareness about the need for drug education. The government runs drug prevention programs in schools, aimed especially at 11-15 year old children, who are considered to be at the greatest risk of addiction.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

The United States assists Turkey to disrupt and diminish the flow of drugs by providing anti-narcotics material and training assistance to the Turkish National Police, the primary Turkish anti-narcotics enforcement agency. The United States aids Turkish Customs by providing material assistance and training designed to enhance interdiction at Turkey's border gates. With the passage of anti-money laundering legislation, the United States will also start training in the detection of financial crimes related to narcotics trafficking. United States anti-narcotics programs in Turkey, including training, are budgeted at approximately $700,000 for 1998.

The United States and Turkey are planning a joint initiative to enhance the future viability of the licit poppy crop. Agronomic research will lead to a more valuable poppy crop and avoid the problems that could arise from commercial disinterest in the Turkish licit opium industry.

Bilateral Cooperation. After several years of increasing interdictions, 1996 and 1997 were less successful, but DEA reports that bilateral investigations resulted in a number of arrests, including some considered significant.

The Road Ahead. Turkey can go farther in tightening border controls, which would aid in reducing the flow of drugs through Turkey. Implementation of the joint United States/Turkey poppy research project will commence in 1998. Turkey's parliament is considering new anti-corruption legislation and a reduction in parliamentary immunity to prosecution; the success of these anti-corruption initiatives, full implementation of the Financial Crimes Investigative Board and commencement of joint controlled delivery investigations would represent a strong follow through to a promising beginning in these fields.


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