THE FIGHT AGAINST DRUGS

INTRODUCTION

The drugs problem continues to worsen inexorably from year to year. International drugs cartels are becoming more aggressive and more expansionist in attacking new markets with new drugs with ever changing distribution patterns and with increasing skill in concealment and in handling the money from their sales. Even more worrying, they are using their increasing resources to interfere in the democratic and economic processes of countries by political influence and by taking over key sectors of business and financial services.

The annual street sales value of illicit drugs is now estimated to have reached over 500,000 million US dollars a year. This is a sum larger than the national budgets of many countries.

Increasingly we see drug cartels collaborating with terrorist groups, using drugs to purchase their weapons. The political, social and economic stability of nation states is, therefore, being affected by the drugs trade. The main victim of drugs is and will continue to be those young people who are ensnared into taking drugs and becoming addicted to them. However, whilst crime at street level may continue to be more immediately apparent as a threat to our daily safety, it is the steady enlargement of the power of big time criminal organisations which feed for growth on drugs trafficking that is the main threat of our time.

The international drug trade is highly organised. Traffickers are able to employ the finest brains, whether these be legal, financial, logistical or those of chemists. They employ the most modern equipment and technology to produce, transport and distribute their drugs and to assist in laundering the monies from them. The biggest drug traffickers are now able to run and finance their entire operation without coming into contact with the drugs themselves and in many cases living, thanks to satellite communication, on yachts or in lands where the law effectively cannot touch them. They remain unharmed because they can rarely be linked to specific drugs smuggling operations or where they are, no proof can be established as to their guilt. Due to their limitless wealth the drug barons can buy protection from criminal prosecution or, in the event that such protection is not forthcoming, use violence to eliminate incriminating witnesses.

The flood of heroin from Asia, cocaine from South America, cannabis from North Africa and synthetic drugs from European bases is unstoppable. Bigger and more frequent seizures by customs may indicate greater success in tracing drug shipments. More often than not these seizures are an indication of an increased flow of drugs. The real success or otherwise of a country's drugs seizures can only be truly measured when the elements of street price and purity are added to the equation. If prices are low and purity high, greater seizures will only confirm a greater availability of drugs.

On the side of law and order we observe that police forces and customs are co-operating in the war against drugs far more effectively than was the case ten or even five years ago. But they are still inadequately equipped and lack sufficient manpower. At a time when we are congratulating ourselves on being able to dispense with customs officers as our borders come down, we are throwing away a trained resource which will increasingly be seen to be necessary in the pursuit of big time drugs criminals. Unless too we can match the traffickers, in provision of the best available technical, electronic and chemical analysis equipment, we will be fighting with one arm tied behind our backs.

All member and applicant countries of the European Union must be fully committed to international co-operation against drugs trafficking and the growing menace of international crime. A steady move must take place to multi-lateral co-operation throughout the European Union in matters such as extradition, penalties, powers of pursuit, sharing of information etc. Timetables must be set, but in the meantime, bilateral agreements with every country on these important matters should be put in place. This will require a high degree of political will which is not yet sufficiently evident. We must surely expect that our action must be anticipatory and not always reactive to the exigencies imposed by criminal organisations.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORT

The Commission's report to the Council and the European Parliament on a European Union Action Plan to combat drugs in the period 1995-1999 is a factual, low key but rather uninspiring document. It does, of course, have positive elements. Amongst these it emphasises that effective action to combat drugs requires a comprehensive and integrated approach but it does not sufficiently identify those matters which require the greatest degree of priority or plead convincingly for the better use or for an increased allocation of funds. The Commission remains bland in the face of wasted funds being allocated for the purposes of crop substitution, it makes no clear distinction between the ring leaders amongst the drug traffickers, the wholesalers, the retailers and the small time pushers. It does not argue for at least an equal allocation of funds for prevention and rehabilitation. It fails, even by inference, to point to a lack of cohesion in drug matters within its own departments and between the Council and the Commission which have different competencies made under the Treaty of European Union. It completely fails to acknowledge that our drug policies to date have failed to tackle the increasing power of the drugs traffickers and to curb the ever growing influence of black money in our society. In short there is no sense of urgency. It is, therefore, important that this Parliament and its Civil Liberties Committee help to identify where the main problems lie and put forward additional and coherent recommendations for improving the situation.

The European Commission's report deals with three areas:

- Action in Demand Reduction.

- Action to combat illegal drugs trafficking

- Action in the International Sphere.

In this working document and in the resolution we put forward we will deal with the second two areas above and NOT the first. This is because the Commission has made a separate action programme in the field of public health, which has been reported on separately by this Parliament. It is also because your rapporteur wrote a full report in the last five year session of the Parliament for the Youth and Education Committee on the whole subject of Education and Drugs of Abuse.

Our recommendations have not changed since then. Finally this report is limited, regretfully, by Parliament's rules limiting the length of reports.

We wish to make it absolutely clear from the outset that, although this report concentrates primarily on the legal and policing aspect of drugs of abuse, it is on the prevention and rehabilitation sides of the fight against drugs that most progress can be made. We wish to see at least 50% of all funding for drugs from both EU and National budgets going towards health, education and rehabilitation and we will continue to press for this relentlessly through the life of the Parliament. If the demand for drugs cannot be reduced amongst our young people, a large market will continue to exist which will be satisfied by the drugs traffickers.

We also wish to stress our view that harm reduction policies must be pursued with vigour and intelligence. Young people who are addicted to drugs need help. Help may come in the form of re-habilitation. It may also come in the form of controlled maintenance. It would be wrong to prescribe a common approach to drugs maintenance since the attitudes of society and the needs of drugs takers vary according to circumstances. There is no case for anything but open debate on the subject of treatment and rehabilitation in whatever form including that of both methadone and heroin. However, it will be for the Drugs Monitoring Unit in Lisbon to carefully collate all evidence of success and failure in this regard so as to help establish what methods work and why and in what circumstances.

MAIN BODIES DEALING WITH CROSS-BORDER TRAFFICKING

INTERPOL AND EUROPOL

About 60% of all enquiries coming to Interpol relate to drugs and about 80% of the one million or so messages transmitted by this organisation involve Europe. Interpol is necessary because it operates in an international capacity and has members from across the world. Europol, on the other hand, is destined to operate as an EU body hopefully to obtain information about drugs and drug trafficking and with the ability to analyse it and to initiate, if not carry out, investigations resultant upon this analysis. Both bodies, in this context, have separate and complimentary roles. Europol can only operate effectively and indeed be worth its creation if it is given legitimacy through the signing and ratification of a Convention. It is most unfortunate that national governments have so far held up the signing of this Convention on the count of information disclosure or competence. If information exchange is to be the only use to which Europol is to be put then it would have been better to locate customs and police officers in a separate part or an adjacent building to Interpol in Lyon. The French Presidency has stated that it will ensure that a Convention for Europol is signed by July 1995. We ask our French colleagues to do their utmost to ensure that this Convention does not produce a toothless paper tiger. Europol must have at its disposal, at the very least, a comprehensive data base and in time should be able to work in co-ordinating investigation with national police and customs forces.

TREVI

A most positive outcome of this group has been the development of the system of Drugs Liaison Officers (DLO's) from national customs and police who have been posted in producer or transit countries. However, the network of liaison officers needs to be both rationalised and increased. There is sometimes undue rivalry. In a city like Bangkok DLO's are falling over themselves whereas in other areas DLO's are sorely needed. We, therefore, recommend greater co-operation, less duplication but also extension in a co-ordinated manner. A further positive step initiated through Trevi has been the agreement to establish drugs intelligence units so as to link in to Europol. All countries in the EU do now have these intelligence units working but there is a world of difference between them. All countries of the EU must bring their intelligence units up to the highest standard, such as that operating successfully in the U.K. In addition all applicant countries must be asked to set up intelligence units and be given assistance and training to accomplish this.

THE WORLD CUSTOMS ORGANISATION (formerly the Customs Co-operation Council)

The WCO has been recently re-structured. It now works with six regions each of which has a headquarters which is responsible for organising specific intelligence gathering within its area. WCO headquarters continues to be in Brussels with European headquarters based in Warsaw. For too long international customs and police operated in parallel but separate tracks. Drugs co-operation was insufficient and objectives dissimilar. Customs went for the drugs, the police for the criminal. The situation has been transformed over the past five years. The WCO and Interpol are on the point of establishing an official memorandum of understanding. Both bodies now operate a monthly electronic reporting system about drug movements and seizures. This links in to the UN. There do, however, remain problems of differing software and computer systems for communications. These must be tackled if further progress is to be made. Further improved customs and police co-operation can result in increased seizures of drugs and better knowledge of drugs criminal organisations and their methods of operation. This can be done by profiling and analysing techniques without the necessity for disclosing names, where this is not possible. Germany now operates 24 joint customs/police operational groups investigating drugs smuggling. Joint money laundering and precursor units also operate out of Wiesbaden. Even so across the EU there is still so much more to be done in locating drugs traffickers, their modes of transport and concealment and methods of transferring funds. We need to improve our knowledge about those who are travelling on false passports. It should, therefore, be the aim to establish joint customs/immigration/police teams at all major points of entry into the EU. On the borders with Eastern Europe these should be added to by joint East/West teams. These should be mobile and should be well trained and equipped with the most up-to-date equipment including making use of satellites so that information can be transferred immediately from the remotest border points to a central data point for analysis.

LEGAL SYSTEMS AND PENALTIES

Drug traffickers today are making rings around us because of our unwillingness and inability to adapt our legal systems to deal with them. Most, if not all, countries in the European Union have effective laws for bringing drug traffickers, dealers and pushers to book. However, methods and requirements on police and customs and the legal profession itself in targeting, tracking, arresting and bringing drugs criminals to court vary greatly. This makes effective co-operation difficult. Again and again one learns of cases where the scent on a criminal case having been allowed to go dry or a big time criminal has escaped the net because of differing laws and practices. Disagreement or inability to act over controlled deliveries (monitoring the journey of a shipment known to contain drugs across borders), tracking devices attached to vehicles, pursuit across borders, inability to make a quick arrest, different laws in regard to search, are just a few examples where co-operation and success break down because of the law. We can quite understand the sensitivities involved as regards the protection of national sovereignty. Nonetheless the Treaty on European Union specifically requires greater co-operation between member states in the Union matters regarding terrorism and drugs trafficking and this must surely include a mutual approach to adapting our laws to deal with drug trafficking.

There has to date been no systematic evaluation of the penalties which are being imposed in different countries and in differing circumstances for the trafficking, dealing, pushing and possession of drugs. Today the degree of severity of penalties between for example the United Kingdom and the Netherlands for varying drug offences is enormous. But there are also great differences of approach to sentencing in a single country like Germany. States like Bavaria have a much tougher approach compared to those like Nordrhein-Westfalen. We need to make a complete analysis but in so doing be aware that even those caught with large amounts of drugs are seldom the ring leaders, who distance themselves from the drug trafficking they organise.

The question of penalties for drug using and possession for personal use continues to be one of continuing debate and differences of opinion. We welcome the increasing awareness in courts across the European Union that imprisonment for using or small possession of drugs can be counter-productive. More often than not prisons are hot-beds for drugs, where not only are all sorts of drugs available but where needle sharing takes place with the attendant certainty of spreading AIDS. A study in the U.K. shows that 43% of male prisoners had used drugs prior to their arrest and that 23% of women had been dependant on drugs prior to entering prison. In addition addicts who are not criminals themselves come into contact with the culture of criminality in prison and are influenced by it. There is also the danger of young men and women who are not drug addicts and are given gaol sentences for relatively minor offences such as shop lifting. Very often they are introduced to drugs whilst in prison and become addicts. It is known too that within prison the availability of drugs and consequent drug debt lead to violence and extortion amongst inmates. We also doubt the benefit of allowing a person off a gaol sentence provided he or she agrees to have rehabilitation. It has been found by experience that drug addicts can only be helped to 'kick their habit' provided they themselves have the will to do so. If they do not, the rehabilitation process is almost always useless. There is also the ridiculous situation, which often arises, where addicts who have not come before the courts and who do want of their own free will to obtain rehabilitation, are unable to do so because the facilities are not available. So in effect an addict may have to create an offence before he is offered rehabilitation.

We recommend the following steps should be taken:

1. There should at an early stage be a full-scale review of drugs in prison across the EU and the effects that these have on inmates. Recommendations should take into account that law enforcement measures must go hand in hand with drug treatment and drug education initiatives.

2. There should be a complete review of different sentencing practices and the effects of various penalties on drug users. The aim should be to establish which practices yield best results and should be recommended for wider use.

3. There must be a uniform policy for sentencing the major criminals in the drugs trade. This must include effective extradition.

MONEY LAUNDERING

There is increasing contamination taking place in the financial and business world due to the greater flows of black money. The G7 Financial Action Task Force has estimated that the annual sales of cocaine, heroin and cannabis alone amount to $120 billion in the USA and Europe and that $85 billion could be available for money laundering. Funds are finding their way into many and varied legal entities. There are approximately 1000 new banks in Russia and of these probably two thirds are financed or heavily influenced by criminals. Finance houses, construction companies, hotels, casinos and office blocks across the whole of Europe are increasingly being financed by black laundered money. Dollars and European currencies gained from the drugs trade are being traded for roubles and other eastern currencies at extortionate rates and then being used for buying up large tracts of the economies of Russia, the Ukraine and other central and central European countries.

We recommend that all EU governments should agree a joint level of commitment in dealing with money launderers and must abide by the United Nations Convention in respect of money laundering. It will be necessary to effect a complete change in the professional culture of banking and financial institutions. The foremost brains must be employed to devise and operate a European wide system for detecting and keeping up with the myriad of techniques used for laundering and transferring of black money and presenting solutions for dealing with them. There is an urgent need for greater transparency in the recording of financial sources, which will allow authorities to obtain a clearer picture of the state of financing of an enterprise and will be a disincentive for legal entities to engage in the black market.

The amount of training of those dealing with money transactions must be significantly increased. A code needs to be worked out and agreed. Computer programmes must be devised to track payments and the destinations of money so that patterns can be established and suspicious circumstances brought to the attention of those that can take action. New investigative and intelligence structures must be devised and agreed not only across Europe but with the United States and with the many tax free countries operating around the world. There needs to be a thorough review of banking secrecy laws and the ethics employed based on today's requirements. If we do not act on this matter as a matter of urgency we will find that the financial institutions themselves will become so contaminated that such action as is contemplated will be impossible.

EASTERN AND CENTRAL EUROPE

There are no effective controls at the borders of the former Communist countries, no knowledge of drugs amongst either police or customs and a naïvety about drugs purveyors and shippers partly because those who trade in them from the west are still seen as being part of the new free non-oppressive culture and partly because in one way or another the trade brings financial advantages to them. However, the situation is just beginning to show signs of improvement particularly at the borders of Scandinavia, Germany and Austria where assistance is being given with direct information, training and equipment.

There are few if any legal processes for dealing with drugs. New laws are being worked on but there is a great need for assistance in setting up the necessary legal processes such as the training of judges and prosecutors. It will take a good two to three years to move customs and police to come round to actively investigating and five years to gain experience. During that time the drugs traffickers will have established a vice-like grip across all former Communist countries and the trade will have escalated beyond all imaginable proportions. Further, there are almost insurmountable problems in both human and material communications between one former Communist country and another in investigating crime. In human terms this is because these countries under the Communist system have spent their time building up information which could be used against the other. So neither the will nor the laws permit the giving or sharing of information. In material terms the amount of equipment and the antiquity of land telephone communications is abysmal. There are also almost unbelievable blockages due to language problems. For instance communications about drugs and drug seizures can be transmitted to Warsaw in Russian but there are almost no facilities for translation. Equally communications in English from Warsaw will not be understood in Russia

In order to improve this situation the following should take place:

1. There needs to be a considerable increase in funds. We suggest that monies being allocated to crop substitution should be re-allocated to strengthening the police and customs operationsand, of course, full use of funds available from PHARE and TACIS should be utilised.

2. Priority must be given to enhancing communications and intelligence gathering.

3. There needs to be an improvement in the link between control activities at external border posts of the European Union and the gathering of relevant intelligence in Eastern and Central Europe.

4. The objective of customs police and customs operations must go well beyond pure drug interdiction and must be to identify, track down and bring to justice the leaders of the criminal organisations involved in the drugs traffic in Central and Eastern Europe rather than arresting couriers and seizing shipment and means of transport.