Cablegate: 2008-2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report,

Published: Wed 12 Nov 2008 09:34 AM
DE RUEHPG #0707/01 3170934
P 120934Z NOV 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: STATE 100992
1. Summary: Illegal narcotics are imported to, manufactured in, and
consumed in the Czech Republic. While the overall number of drug
users in the country is relatively stable, the rates of use for
marijuana, Ecstasy, and methamphetamines are among the highest in
Europe. Marijuana, grown locally and imported from Holland, is used
more than any other drug. Locally produced high-THC content
marijuana is exported to neighboring countries, and methamphetamine
(known locally as pervitin) is sold for domestic consumption and
export. Levels of heroin reaching the Czech Republic have remained
stable over recent years, while cocaine use is low. The Czech
Republic is a producer of ergometrine, which is then used for the
production of LSD. Extensive and ongoing police reforms and
recurrent changes in police management have led to understaffing
which has hampered the ability of the police to effectively do their
job. The Czech Republic is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
Status of Country
2. Several factors make the Czech Republic an attractive country
for groups engaged in the drug trade. These factors include its
central location, relatively short sentences for drug-related
crimes, and the low risk of assets confiscation. A new law on public
sector compensation has caused many police officers to pursue early
retirement, leading to major understaffing. The abolition of the
Financial Police has led to a decrease in detection rates of
laundered drug money. The decrease in border control mechanisms as
part of EU accession in 2004 and entry into the Schengen System at
the end of 2007 have made detection of narcotics coming across the
border more difficult. The maximum sentence for a drug-related crime
is 15 years imprisonment, but often convicted drug traffickers
receive only light or suspended sentences. A four-year governmental
action plan, "The National Drug Policy Strategy for 2005-2009," is
re-evaluated internally every year for appropriate changes.
According to the annual report of European Monitoring Center for
Drugs and Drug Addiction, the rate of marijuana use in the Czech
Republic is the highest in Europe, with 28.2 percent of young adults
having used the drug within the previous twelve months. Together
with Danes, Czechs are also the most likely to have used marijuana
in their lifetimes. Consumption of Ecstasy and pervitin was among
the highest in the EU.
3. The "Czech National Focal Point for Drugs and Drug Addiction" is
the main body responsible for collecting, analyzing and interpreting
data on drug use. According to their annual report the number of
drug users was stable in 2007. The report estimates there were
20,900 pervitine and approximately 10,000 opiate users-among the
highest percentages of use in the EU. The use of Subutex (an opiate
used in the treatment of addiction) and heroin declined and
showed 4,250 and 5,750 users respectively.
4. A 2007 "Health Behavior in School-aged Children" (HBSC) study
confirmed the trend observed in the 2006 HBSC survey carried out
among 15-year-old students: the dramatic increase in experience with
drugs use observed since the mid-1990s has stopped. It showed that
25 percent of 15 year old children have tried marijuana, and 19
percent of them used it in the last twelve months. Based on the
Czech National Monitoring Center (Focal Point) the situation
improved compared to 2002. At that time, 30 percent of polled 15
year-olds reported they had tried marijuana, and 27 percent admitted
that they had used marijuana in the last twelve months.
Country Actions Against Drugs in 2008
5. Policy Initiatives: Drug policy remains a contentious issue in
Czech domestic politics. In March 2008 Minister of Justice Jiri
Pospisil submitted a new penal code to the Parliament. The bill is
currently due for the second reading in the House of Deputies of the
Czech Parliament, and parliamentary sources say it could be passed
by the end of November. Under the new bill, imprisonment up to one
year may be imposed for possession of so-called "soft drugs," while
a two-year limit has been set for the remaining drugs. The Greens,
one of three parties in the current government, promote legalization
of marijuana, i.e. decriminalize the use. The Criminal Code passed
in 2005 for the first time made a sharp distinction between the use
of "soft" drugs, such as marijuana and Ecstasy, and "hard" drugs,
such as heroin and pervitin. An important and long-awaited law on
social services was passed and came into force in 2006. Among other
things, it defines basic types of social services for drug users and
identifies drug users as a target group. This is important
especially for non-governmental organizations providing such
services to drug users and requesting funding from the Ministry of
Labor and Social Affairs.
6. The Governmental Committee for Coordination of Drug Policy is
the main body responsible for the Czech National Drug Policy
strategy. The strategy document created for 2005-2009 highlights the
importance of enforcement operations against organized criminal
enterprises and focuses efforts on the reduction of addiction and
associated health risks, and the establishment of a certification
system for drug prevention programs. The government also controlled
the availability of pills containing chemical precursors. The
Committee includes representatives of local governments, medical
specialists and NGO representatives.
The National Drug Headquarters (NDH) is the main organization within
the country responsible for major drug investigations. The drug
units of the Czech Customs Service are also responsible for tracking
drugs, but their roles differ. In addition to Customs common
operational work and investigations, they focus on the control of
the major port-of-entry into the country located at Prague
international airport. Additionally, they use mobile groups to
monitor suspicious trucks on highways around the country. This work
has become more difficult after the country's 2004 entry into the
EU, when border control checks were reduced. Customs is also
responsible for monitoring the Czech Republic's modest licit poppy
crop, highway permits, and trafficking in cigarettes, as well as
levying certain taxes and fees. As a result of these additional
tasks and changes related to the December 2007 accession to the EU
Schengen System, the monitoring of drug trafficking is no longer the
highest priority.
7. The NDH cooperates regularly with the Customs Service based on
an agreement signed between the Ministries of Interior and Finance.
Discussions continue on whether the NDH and the customs drug unit
should be joined under one institution owing to overlapping
8. The NDH cooperates regularly with other police units including
the Unit Combating Corruption and Financial Crimes, as the NDH is
responsible for financial investigations following the abolition of
the Financial Police in January 2007. Despite its strong reputation,
the Interior Minister decided to abolish the Financial Police as
part of a broader reform package. The decision has been criticized
as having been politically motivated. As a result, the NDH conducts
its basic financial investigations alone and refers cases of
extensive financial investigations to the Unit Combating Corruption
and Financial Crimes.
9. Law Enforcement: In the first six months of 2008, the National
Drug Headquarters, together with the Customs Service, seized 39.6 kg
of heroin, compared to 20.33 kg in the entire 2007; 15,936 Ecstasy
pills, compared to 63,226 pills in 2007; 1.84 kg of methamphetamine,
compared to 5.9 kg of methamphetamine in 2007; 135.42 kg of
marijuana, compared to 122.12 kg of marijuana in 2007; 7.9 kg of
cocaine, compared to 37.5 kg of cocaine in 2007; and 11,910 cannabis
plants. They also uncovered 197 methamphetamine laboratories,
compared to 388 methamphetamine laboratories in 2007; and 61
marijuana cultivation laboratories, compared to 34 laboratories in
2007. Of the 61 laboratories 53 were operated by Vietnamese gangs.
The police also seized 245 LSD trips in the first half of 2008.
10. In March, after two months of intensive work, the police
arrested five persons, three Czechs and two Brits, and closed what
is believed to have been one of the most productive pervitin
laboratories where they produced half a kilogram of the drug per
week. The manufacture was funded from Britain, and most of the drugs
were smuggled via an air courier to Britain. A smaller part of the
production was sold in the Czech Republic. The five detainees are
facing up to 15 years in prison.
In April the police broke an organized gang producing drugs in the
Central Bohemian region. Five men and a woman were arrested. The
group distributed pervitin and heroin worth more than CZK 4 million
($245,000) mainly among Roma communities.
11. In April the Customs Service detained 31 persons suspected of
manufacture and distribution of drugs. The operation, in which Czech
officials in cooperation with their counterparts in West European
countries and South America seized more than 30 kilograms of various
drugs, lasted two years. The gang was operated by Nigerians living
in the Czech Republic and using Czechs as couriers for shipments of
drugs from Belgium, the Netherlands, Argentina, and Bolivia to the
Czech Republic.
In August the police detained an organized group suspected of
illicit manufacture and distribution of anabolic steroids. The gang
of two Czechs and a Turk were arrested after more than a year of
investigation that involved cooperation with the police in Sweden,
Spain, United Kingdom and Germany where four shipments of anabolic
steroids worth millions of Czech crowns were seized. On Czech
territory the police seized anabolic semi products and equipment
worth also millions of Czech crowns. The gang faces up to five
years in prison.
12. The number of drug offences in the Czech Republic has remained
relatively stable in recent years. According to the Czech National
Monitoring Center, the number of people prosecuted for drug offences
in 2007 was the lowest in the past four years and ranged, depending
on the source, from 2,023 to 2,282. Two thousand and forty two
people were charged with drug offences, which represents a decrease
of 12% compared to 2006, and the lowest total number of people
charged with such offences since 2000.
13. The annual 2007 Czech National Monitoring Center Report states
that courts passed final sentences for 1,382 persons convicted of
drug offences. In 2007 there was an increase in the proportion of
individuals prosecuted for drug offences under Section 187a
(possession of drugs for personal use). The most frequent drug
offences were associated with pervitin (50-70%), followed by
cannabis (20-30%). The proportion of cocaine has been increasing in
recent years, although it still accounts for fewer than 3% of drug
offences. Statistics for the first six months of 2008 show that of
858 convicted criminals 370 received conditional sentences for
drug-related crimes, and 228f received prison sentences. Only 38 of
this latter group received sentences of 5 to 15 years. The majority
of those sentenced to serve time in prison (157) received sentences
ranging from one to five years. According to 2007 data, higher
prison sentences are given to people convicted of production and
lower sentences are given for possession.
14. Corruption: The Czech government does not encourage or
facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or
psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering
of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. A current provision in
Czech law permits possession of a small amount of certain drugs, but
does not give a definition of "small amount". To avoid confusion and
to eliminate potential corruption, the Police President and Supreme
Public Prosecutor have issued internal regulations that provide
guidelines that attempt to define "small amount". While not binding,
these guidelines are commonly followed. In 2007 no police officer
was charged with drug-related crimes. The Czech Republic signed the
UN Convention against Corruption in 2005, but has not yet ratified
15. Agreements and Treaties: The Czech Republic is a party to the
1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the 1971
UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 UN Drug
Convention. A 1925 extradition treaty between the U.S. and the Czech
Republic, as supplemented in 1935, remains in force. U.S. and Czech
representatives signed supplements to the U.S.-EU extradition treaty
in May 2006.
16. Drug Flow/Transit: Whereas in the past heroin trafficking in
the country was mainly under the control of ethnic Albanian groups
importing their product from Turkey, according to the Czech
counternarcotics squad and Customs this is no longer the case. The
importation of heroin is now mainly organized by Turks who have
closer relations with suppliers in Turkey. Heroin is transported to
the Czech Republic primarily using modified vehicles, in many cases
vehicles importing textiles. Given the fact that Vietnamese
immigrants specialize in the textile business in the Czech Republic,
they play a role in further distribution. Heroin can be bought for a
street price of 800 - 2000 crowns a gram ($44 - $115). Police and
Customs suspect the Balkan route of heroin trafficking has moved
south to Austria and, therefore, the Czech Republic is no longer
viewed as a transit country for heroin.
17. Cocaine abuse is not as widespread as other drugs, but abuse is
increasing due to the growing purchasing power of Czech citizens.
Cocaine is frequently imported by Nigerians or Czechs through
Western Europe from Brazil, Venezuela or, most recently, Argentina.
Mail parcels, Czech couriers or "swallowers" are the most common
methods of import. In 2007, the Czech Customs Service detected 38 kg
of cocaine, which is almost four times more than in 2006. The drug
was smuggled especially from the Netherlands. Customs extended
their cooperation with express courier services, which seem to be
the most common way of importation. Cocaine can be bought for a
street price of 1200 - 3500 crowns a gram ($67 - $200).
18. Pervitine is a synthetic methamphetamine-type stimulant that is
popular in the Czech Republic. Statistics for pervitin use also
represent the highest rates in Europe. It can be easily produced in
home laboratories from locally available flu pills containing up to
30 mg of pseudoephedrine. According to the Czech Pharmaceutical
Association, more than 80% of cold medications sold in the Czech
Republic is being used for the clandestine manufacture of pervitin.
According to the State Institute for Controlled Substances (SUKL),
just 12 pharmacies were responsible for selling one quarter of the 4
million medication packets sold in 2007. The Czech government has
been preparing a new law regulating access to those flu pills. Czech
police also appears to have stepped up enforcement. On June 5,
Czech police announced charges against a pharmacist in connection
with allegedly supplying up to 25,000 boxes of cold medications to a
suspected meth cook in Chomutov, a city in northern Czech Republic
near the German border.
19. It is believed that pervitine is also produced in bigger
laboratories from imported ephedrine from the Balkans or Russia, and
exported to Germany, Austria and Slovakia. Besides Czech citizens,
who are still the main producers of the drug, Vietnamese and
Albanians residing in the Czech Republic and Germans are also major
pervitine traffickers. The Vietnamese control mainly border areas,
selling drugs in market places. Pervitine can be bought for a street
price of 400 - 4000 crowns a gram ($23 - $222). Imported Ecstasy
tablets remain a favorite drug of the "dance scene." Ecstasy is
trafficked primarily from the Netherlands and Belgium. Ecstasy
tablets are smuggled into the country by local couriers. The police
report an increase of larger one-time imports organized mainly by
Czechs. Import is less risky due to EU's open borders under Schengen
System. Ecstasy tablets can be bought for a street price of 80 - 500
crowns a pill ($4.40- $28.60).
20. A trend toward larger-scale growth of cannabis plants in
hydrophonic laboratories continued in 2007. The cultivation is
increasingly sophisticated and mainly organized by Vietnamese and
Czechs. In 2007, the police detected 34 laboratories. The number of
detected hydrophonic laboratories increased dramatically in the
first five months of 2008: 61 laboratories were detected of which 53
were run by Vietnamese operators. According to the NDC thousands of
cannabis plants, dozens of kilograms of the final dry product, and
extensive number of technical equipment were seized. Most of the
final product was intended for illegal distribution on the Czech
market, and the rest was intended for export, mainly to Germany and
the Netherlands. Marijuana can be bought for a street price of 50 -
300 crowns a gram ($2.90 - $17.10).
21. Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction: The main components of
Czech demand reduction plans continue to be primary prevention along
with treatment and re-socialization of abusers. This strategy
entails a variety of programs that include school-based prevention
education, drug treatment, and needle exchange programs. Within the
context of the National Strategy, the government has established
benchmarks for success. Some of these include stabilizing or
reducing the number of "problem" (hard drug) users, reversing the
trend in the Czech Republic toward rising recreational and
experimental drug use, and ensuring the availability of treatment
centers and social services.
22. To provide high-level treatment services all over the country,
the National Strategy sets standards that are required of all drug
treatment providers. In connection with this effort, the government
began a certification process in 2005 for treatment facilities. A
system of certifications of specialized primary prevention programs
was launched in 2006. All providers of primary prevention programs
must obtain certification prior to the end of 2008. According to the
Czech National Monitoring Center 2008 report, a total of 22
facilities were certified in 2007 (two treatment facilities and 20
harm reduction facilities. In the first six months of 2008
additional four facilities were certified for services in the field
of harm reduction, treatment, and after-care.
23. For better orientation, the Czech government produced an online
"Map of Help" in 2006 which lists contact information for all drug
treatment programs in the Czech Republic, including those providing
services by phone and the Internet.
24. In 2007 there were 109 contact centers and street programs in
the Czech Republic. About 27,200 drug users used these services, and
4.5 million injection kits were exchanged, which is 700,000 more
than in 2006. Thanks to the successful needle exchange program, the
percentage of HIV positive drug users is very low. Drug testing of
individuals involved in serious traffic accidents or driving under
the influence became mandatory in 2006. There were 15 substitutions
centers in the Czech Republic in 2007 treating addicts with
methadone and two medicines Subutex and, since 2008 Subuxone, which
feature beprenorphine as the addictive substance and can be
prescribed by any physician, regardless their specialization.
25. In 2007 the state spent 367 million crowns ($20.2 million) on
its drug policy. Of this amount, 128 million crowns ($5.1 million)
were provided from regional budgets and 62 million ($ 3.35 million)
was contributed from local budgets. Compared to 2006, total expenses
increased on all three levels.
26. The National Focal Point statistics have noted a positive
trend: the increasing average age of long-term drug users: 26.1
years in 2007, compared to 25.3 years in 2006, 23.4 in 2004, and 22
in 2002.
U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs
27. Bilateral Cooperation: The U.S. covers Czech Republic drug
issues through the DEA office in Warsaw but cooperation with the
Vienna office is also very good. Exchange of information especially
about technical equipment for manufacture of synthetic drugs between
the DEA office in Vienna and the National Drugs Headquarters in
Prague has been very productive. The Legal Attach maintains close
contact with National Drug Headquarters representatives and
exchanges information as necessary. The relationship with Czech law
enforcement counterparts is cooperative. Cooperation between
American and Czech officials on law enforcement and border security
issues has increased as a result of the Czech Republic's entry into
the U.S. visa waver program.
28. The Road Ahead: The Czech Republic continues to implement
police and legal reforms to ensure a stable, effective and
independent police force. The Czech Parliament is expected to
approve the new Penal Code and Criminal Proceedings Code by the end
of 2008, which would come into effect on January 1, 2010. The new
codes will ensure that criminal prosecutions are conducted in a
timely manner and sentencing is appropriate and predictable. The new
Penal Code will newly differentiate between marihuana and other
drugs. The Ministry of Health is expected to complete a draft
regulation limiting the sale of medications containing precursors,
such as Nurofen Stopgrip, Modafen, Paralen Plus, and Panadol Plus
Grip, to one or two packets per person. The National Drugs
Headquarters and the Czech Pharmaceutics Chamber favor a stricter
limitation to one packet of these medications. Debate about the
exact amount of these medications sold over the counter should be
concluded by December and the new regulation should be effective as
of January 1, 2009.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media