1998: International Narcotics Control Strategy Report – Georgia Review
Although presently a secondary route for transiting narcotics, Georgia’s geographic location as part of the emerging Eurasian transit corridor creates the potential for increased trafficking. Counternarcotics is a low priority for Georgia’s corrupt and inefficient law enforcement agencies which focus their efforts on threats to political stability. The U.S. is currently providing training and equipment for Georgian Border Guards and Customs Service. Georgia became a signatory to the 1988 UN convention in August 1998 and works with the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP).
II. Status of Country
At this time, Georgia is a secondary transit route for drug shipments from Central Asia to Europe. Its geographic location makes Georgia a key element of a Eurasian transit corridor, and thereby a potential major drug route. Local involvement in drug trafficking remains limited, but cigarette and alcohol smuggling are major criminal activities. Interdiction efforts are hampered by Georgia’s lack of control of sections of its territory and all its borders, some of which are under separatist and/or Russian control. Recent training programs and equipment provided under a U.S. land border/law enforcement assistance program will enable Georgia to take over responsibility for its borders from the Russians. Border guards and Customs officials remain poorly paid and have been especially liable to corruption. Although Georgia is not a significant producer of narcotics or precursor chemicals, a small amount of marijuana is grown and it has the technical capacity to produce precursor chemicals.
III. Country Action Against Drugs in 1998
Policy Initiatives. Counternarcotics enforcement responsibilities are shared by the Interior Ministry (MOI) and the Ministry of State Security (MSS). The MOI has primary responsibility for combating the cultivation and distribution of narcotics within Georgia. The MSS has primary responsibility for interdicting the flow of narcotics through Georgia. Besides enforcement activities, the government has a demand reduction program of preventive education and addiction treatment but it lacks the resources for more than marginal implementation.
Law Enforcement Efforts. Due to a lack of financial resources, Georgian law enforcement agencies are poorly trained and equipped.
Corruption. Corruption is a significant problem within Georgia’s law enforcement agencies moreover, anti-corruption efforts are hampered by a widespread social acceptance of corruption. Petty corruption of government officials is an inevitable consequence of economic hardship and low salaries. Although government officials generally do not encourage or facilitate illegal narcotic activities, a number of them have been involved in the smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol. Recent arrests for drug trafficking, however, include a former MSS official and a current MOI detective.
Agreements and Treaties. The Government of Georgia (GOG) has no counternarcotics agreements with the United States. Georgia signed the 1988 UN Convention on Drugs in August 1998.
Cultivation. Small amounts of marijuana are grown in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, largely for domestic consumption. Estimates on the extent of narcotics cultivation in Georgia are unreliable and do not include those areas of the country that are outside the central government’s control.
Drug Flow/Transit. The government has no reliable statistics on the volume of drugs transiting Georgia. Drug seizures in 1998 were approximately the same as in 1997. The central government lacks effective control over parts of its territory and borders, and only assumed control from Russian Border Guards over part of its maritime border in mid- 1998. The GOG intends to take control from the Russians of its land borders in 1999, excepting those areas remaining under separatist control. Until recently, Customs officials have lacked proper training and equipment, and have been easily corrupted. Georgia’s importance as a transit corridor for drugs could grow in the future if and when losses mount on traditional routes.
Demand Reduction. The Georgian government’s national anti-narcotics program involves prevention education and treatment of addicts. However, a lack of resources constrains adequate implementation of the program.
IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs.
United States policy on Georgia encourages an aggressive border control program to interdict drugs, a strong investigative effort to reduce domestic supply, and a comprehensive education program to minimize demand.
Bilateral Cooperation. Georgia has no existing bilateral treaty with the U.S. or multilateral narcotics agreements with other countries. In 1998, the USG initiated the Georgian Law Enforcement Assistance and Border Security Program. The purpose of this program is to assist the GOG in developing the capabilities of its Border Guards and Customs Service and to help Georgia assume complete control of its borders. The program so far has focused primarily on the Border Guard. Initiatives include the provision of two patrol craft, the construction of housing and barracks, purchase of fuel oil for Border Guard vehicles and ships, repair of border guard vessels, and a feasibility study of a communication surveillance system. Several MOI employees have participated in USG-sponsored counternarcotics training courses in Turkey and in the United States.
The Road Ahead. Successful control of Georgia’s borders will impact on the use of Georgia as a transit country for drugs. Planned USG programs will include anti-narcotic improvements of forensic laboratory capabilities and financial crime advisory efforts to reduce government corruption.
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