Turkey remains a significant transit country for illicit drug trafficking. Heroin, opium, and cocaine are generally trafficked through Turkey to European markets, and methamphetamine and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) are trafficked to markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Large amounts of opiates and hashish continue to be seized in Turkey, and the Government of Turkey remains committed to upholding its international drug control obligations.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
The Turkish National Police (TNP) is the country’s most proactive counterdrug force and has jurisdiction for drug-related crimes in urban areas. The Jandarma, a branch of the Turkish Armed Forces responsible for rural areas outside the jurisdiction of the TNP, also plays a significant role. TNP intelligence frequently leads to rural areas, in which case the two agencies conduct investigations and seizures together. Turkey’s Coast Guard, under the Ministry of Interior, has some counternarcotics responsibilities, and the Ministry of Customs and Trade’s Directorate General of Customs Guards is the Turkish counterpart to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for issues relating to importation of chemicals for legitimate use. The Ministry of Finance oversees the financial intelligence unit, which investigates potential money laundering activities.
The Turkish International Academy Against Drugs and Organized Crime (TADOC) is an important resource for providing advanced training to law enforcement professionals from within Turkey and across neighboring states. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) sponsors training sessions at TADOC for narcotics police from Central Asia and other states. TADOC also partners with DEA, the NATO-Russia Council, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency and other mutual security organizations in the planning and execution of training projects, instructor fellowship exchanges, and workshops throughout the region.
U.S.-Turkey extradition and mutual legal assistance relations are governed by the 1981 U.S.-Turkey extradition and mutual legal assistance treaty.
2. Supply Reduction
Most heroin trafficked via Turkey is marketed in Western Europe, where Turkish traffickers control much of the distribution. Turkey also acts as a transit route for opiates smuggled overland from Afghanistan via Iran, and to a lesser extent, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia en route to Western Europe. Major Turkish smugglers are frequently involved in both heroin sales and transport, as well as limited production and smuggling of synthetic drugs. Some criminal elements in Turkey reportedly have interests in heroin laboratories operating in Iran near Turkey’s border. Heroin increasingly arrives in Turkey as a finished product from Afghanistan. Turkish authorities have stated that no labs have been detected in Turkey since 2008.
Turkey also serves as a transit route for methamphetamine smuggled by air from Iran and bound for markets in Southeast Asia, as well as ATS originating in Eastern Europe bound for countries in the Middle East. Methamphetamine has become more widely available in Turkey, and authorities fear that local addicts will turn to this less expensive drug.
Cocaine arrives from either South America or via trans-shipment locations in West Africa. TNP intelligence indicates most cocaine transported to Turkey is brought via couriers onboard commercial aircrafts. Seizures indicate cocaine is predominantly hidden inside passenger luggage or hidden on persons. Many West African drug smugglers in Turkey have obtained citizenship through marriage with Turkish nationals.
Cannabis products, primarily hashish, enter Turkey through Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Albania, and are primarily for local consumption. Turkey also acts as a transit route for opium smuggled overland from Afghanistan via Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia en route to Western Europe. While the Balkan Route into Western Europe remains heavily used, evidence suggests that traffickers also use a more northerly route through Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, and the Ukraine.
Turkey and India are the only two licit traditional poppy-growing countries recognized by the United States Government and the International Narcotics Control Board. Opium is produced in Turkey under strict domestic controls and international treaty obligations. The Turkish Grain Board strictly controls licit opium poppy cultivation and pharmaceutical morphine production, with no apparent diversion into the illicit market.
The TNP uses TADOC to train officers on interdiction and investigation techniques to fight drug trafficking. Border control initiatives and upgrades include the deployment of x-ray machines and ion scanners to Turkey’s Eastern borders.
Turkey-based heroin traffickers operate in conjunction with smugglers, laboratory operators, and money launderers who finance and control the smuggling of drugs into Turkey from Afghanistan. Many major drug traffickers in Turkey are ethnic Kurds or Iranians. In recent years, many ethnic Kurdish traffickers have expanded operations to larger cities in Turkey and other countries in Europe. In February 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who ran significant drug trafficking networks based in Moldova and Romania, and in July, an estimated 1700 Turkish police and soldiers participated in a major crackdown on drug trafficking by the PKK in southeast Turkey.
Drug proceeds are often moved to and through Turkey informally, despite the fact only banks and authorized money transfer companies can legally move money. Money exchange bureaus, jewelry stores, and other businesses believed to be part of the hawala banking system are investigated only if the business is directly tied to an existing drug or other criminal investigation.
Between January and November of 2013, Turkish authorities seized approximately 8.58 metric tons (MT) of heroin, slightly below the pace of seizures in 2012 (over 12 MT for the year). The volume of hashish that was seized during this period (143.6 MT over the first 11 months) increased substantially from 2012 (approximately 75 MT), and seizures of ATS (fenethylline and MDMA/ecstasy) more than doubled to approximately 7.6 million tablets.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
The Turkish Science Committee for Methods of Drug Addiction is responsible for the national coordination of treatment. Its main tasks are to monitor, accredit and evaluate treatment services. Drug-related treatment is provided mainly by public agencies, private entities and non-governmental organizations and is mainly funded through the state and health insurance.
Most Turkish treatment services for drug abusers are aimed at achieving a drug-free life and dealing with addiction in general and not specifically for users of illicit drugs. These programs include psychotherapeutic and supporting methods, with the majority of drug-related treatment services taking place within inpatient settings.
While abuse remains modest in scale in Turkey compared to other countries in the surrounding region, the number of addicts seeking treatment is increasing. The Ministry of Health has responsibility for promoting drug awareness and providing treatment, but it remains under-funded and does not conduct regular, periodic drug abuse surveys.
As a matter of government policy, Turkey 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. Similarly, no senior level government official is alleged to have participated in such activities in 2013.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The United States works closely with Turkey to offer regional training opportunities to Turkish Law Enforcement officials throughout the country and at the TADOC center to provide additional tools to Turkish officials and their international counterparts. Turkey hosts several international counter drug forums with goals to enhance investigative abilities, cooperation, and relationships between international law enforcement agencies.
Turkish law enforcement agencies remain strongly committed to disrupting illicit drug trafficking. The United States will continue to work with Turkish law enforcement agencies to strengthen Turkey’s ability to combat drug trafficking, money-laundering, and financial crimes, and reduce the flow of Afghan heroin to international markets. The United States will also continue to support Turkey’s work as a regional leader in counternarcotics training and education.