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2002-03-03 19:58:17

MARCH 2002

Below is the extract on Cyprus from the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for the year 2001


I. Summary

Although Cypriots do not produce or consume significant amounts of narcotics, there continues to be increasing concern on the island about a perceived increase in drug use. The Government of Cyprus traditionally has had a low tolerance attitude toward any use of narcotics by Cypriots and continues to utilize a public affairs campaign to remind Cypriots that narcotics use carries heavy penalties. Drug traffickers appear to continue to use Cyprus as a transshipment point due to its strategic location and its relatively sophisticated business and communications infrastructure. In 2001, several persons transiting Cyprus were arrested for possessing significant quantities of narcotics.

Cyprus monitors the import and export of precursor chemicals for local markets. Cyprus's geographic location and the free-port status of its two main seaports continue to make it an ideal transit country for trade in chemicals and most goods between Europe and the Middle East. Cyprus customs authorities are implementing a series of changes in their inspection procedures, including computerized profiling and expanded use of technical screening devices, such as portal monitors. A party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, Cyprus strictly enforces tough counternarcotics laws, and its police and customs authorities maintain excellent relations with their counterparts in the U.S. and other governments.

II. Status of the Country

Cyprus has a small, but growing population of soft-core drug users. Hashish is the most commonly used drug, followed by heroin, cocaine, and MDMA (ecstasy), all of which are available in major towns. The use of cannabis and ecstasy by young Cypriots and tourists continues to grow. The Government of Cyprus has traditionally adopted a low tolerance attitude toward any use of narcotics by Cypriots and uses a pro-active public relations strategy to remind Cypriots that narcotics use carries heavy penalties. The media reports extensively whenever narcotics arrests are made.

Cypriots themselves do not produce or consume significant quantities of drugs. The island's strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean may have made Cyprus a convenient stopover for narcotics traffickers in the past. Cyprus offers highly developed business and tourism facilities, a modern telecommunications system, and the fifth largest merchant shipping fleet in the world. Still low by international standards, drug-related crime has been steadily rising since the 1980's.

Cypriot law carries a maximum prison term of one year for drug users under 25 years of age with no police record. Sentences for drug traffickers range from four years to life, depending on the substances involved and the offender's criminal record. Cypriot law allows the confiscation of drug-related assets and allows the freezing of profits or a special investigation of a suspect's financial records.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2001

Policy Initiatives. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the Central Bank issued a series of orders requiring banks to notify the Central Bank of accounts held by specified individuals or organizations associated with the financing of terrorist organizations and to freeze assets held in those accounts.

On September 25, 2001, the Central Bank sent a letter to the Cyprus Bar Association and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants calling upon the two associations to request their members to examine whether "they have ever been employed to carry out any work which may even vaguely be suspected to relate directly or indirectly with Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda organization, or related persons." This request could also produce some new information about transactions involving narcotics trafficking or the proceeds of narcotics trafficking by Al-Qaeda or associated groups.

Cultivation/Production. Cannabis is the only illicitly cultivated controlled substance in Cyprus, and it is grown only in small quantities for local consumption. The Cypriot authorities vigorously pursue this illegal cultivation.

Drug Flow/Transit. Although no longer considered a significant transit point for drugs, Cyprus has seen several cases of narcotics smuggling. During the past year, Cypriot law enforcement authorities developed information and cooperated with the DEA's office in Nicosia in an international investigation that resulted in the seizure of five tons of cocaine originating from Colombia, the dismantling of a Spanish criminal organization, and the seizure of a fishing vessel and off-load crew responsible for transporting the cocaine. Tourism to Cyprus is accompanied by the import of some narcotics, principally ecstasy and cannabis. Cyprus police believe their efforts in combating drug trafficking have mostly converted Cyprus from a drug transit point to a "broker point," in which dealers meet potential buyers and negotiate the purchase and shipment of future shipments. This change is likely also as a result of improved conditions in Lebanon. Lebanese containerized freight now moves directly to third countries without transiting Cyprus. Law enforcement authorities in Cyprus attempt to interdict drugs transiting Cyprus when information is made available. Cypriot law enforcement authorities robustly continue their policy of cooperating with international efforts to combat organizations responsible for the trafficking of narcotics. There is no significant sale of narcotics occurring in Cyprus.

There is no production of precursor chemicals in Cyprus, nor is there any indication of illicit diversion. Precursor chemicals manufactured in Europe do transit Cyprus to third countries. Cyprus Customs no longer receives manifests of transit goods, as the seaports of Larnaca and Limassol have been declared "free ports." Goods entering Cypriot free ports can be legally re-exported using different Customs documents, as long as there is no change in the description of the goods transported.

Law Enforcement Efforts:

Cyprus aggressively pursues drug seizures, arrests, and prosecutions for drug violations. Cyprus focuses on major traffickers when the opportunities are available and readily supports the international community in its efforts. There have been no significant changes in the structure of the Cypriot law enforcement agencies. Cypriot police are generally effective in their law enforcement efforts; their techniques and capacity remain restricted by a shortage of financial resources.

The Republic of Cyprus authorities have no working relations with enforcement authorities in the Turkish-controlled northern sector of the island-the self-proclaimed "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)." The U.S. Embassy, including in particular the DEA office within the embassy, work with Turkish Cypriot authorities on international narcotics-related issues. Turkish Cypriots have their own law enforcement organization, responsible for the investigation of all narcotics-related matters. They have shown a willingness to pursue narcotics traffickers and to provide assistance when asked by foreign law enforcement authorities request it.

Corruption. There is no evidence that senior or other officials facilitate the production, processing, or shipment of drugs, or the laundering of the proceeds of illegal drug transactions.

Agreements and Treaties. Cyprus is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1972 Protocol amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. It is also a party to the 1995 European Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime, the European Convention on the Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters, and the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. Cyprus has signed the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants.

A new extradition treaty between the United States and Cyprus entered into force in September 1999. The United States and Cyprus signed a mutual legal assistance treaty in December 1999. The treaty awaits ratification by the House of Representatives of Cyprus.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). Cyprus actively promotes demand reduction programs through the school system and through social organizations. Drug abuse remains relatively rare in Cyprus. Hashish is the most commonly encountered drug, followed by heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, all of which are available in most major towns. Users consist primarily of young people and tourists. Recent increases in drug use have prompted the government actively to promote demand reduction programs through the school system and social organizations, with occasional participation from the DEA's office in Nicosia. Drug treatment is available.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

The deterrence of money laundering in Cyprus continues to be one of the highest priorities for U.S. policy toward Cyprus. The Ambassador and other members of the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia raised the issue repeatedly during 2001 with key Cyprus government officials.

Bilateral Cooperation. Bilateral cooperation between the USG and GOC in law enforcement efforts has been excellent, as has the GOC's bilateral cooperation with neighboring countries.

The Road Ahead. The USG receives close cooperation from the Office of the Attorney General, the Central Bank, the Cyprus Police, and the Customs Authority in drug enforcement and anti-money laundering efforts. In 2002, the USG will continue to work with the Government of Cyprus to heighten further its enforcement of its laws. The USG, through the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, will make every effort to track the influence/effect of organized crime in Cyprus.

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