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) KOM Department (Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department) was re-organized on October 9, 2015. As a result, the drug enforcement authorities were made a separate unit and renamed the TNP “Narcotics Department.” The TNP Narcotics Department is the country’s most proactive counterdrug force and has jurisdiction for drug-related crimes in urban areas. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) often partners with the TNP Narcotics Department. The Jandarma, a component of the Ministry of the Interior responsible for rural areas outside the jurisdiction of the TNP, also plays a significant role, especially in the country’s hashish eradication programs. 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 drug control responsibilities, and the Ministry of Customs and Trade, Directorate General of Customs Guards, is also one of the Turkish counterparts to the U.S. DEA. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for regulating pharmaceutical products and 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 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, while available in Turkey, has not overtaken Turkey as the drug of choice among those suffering from substance use disorders or new users. Cocaine arrives from either South America or via transshipment locations in West Africa. The TNP estimates that most cocaine transported to Turkey is brought via couriers onboard commercial aircraft. Seizures indicate cocaine is predominantly hidden inside passenger luggage or hidden on persons. 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. In November 2015, UNODC estimated that approximately 170 metric tons (MT) per year of Afghan opiates transit the so-called “Balkan route,” and estimated that most of this volume transits Turkey. 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 U.S. 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. Cannabis, primarily as hashish, is typically cultivated and produced in Turkey for domestic consumption.
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. Many major drug traffickers in Turkey are ethnic Kurds or Iranians. In February 2012, the U.S. Department of the Treasury 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.
During the first nine months of 2015, Turkish authorities seized approximately 5.9 MT of heroin, slightly below the pace of seizures in 2014 (8.73 MT) over this same period. The volume of hashish seized during this same period (24 MT) decreased substantially from 2014 (67.26 MT) and 2013 (133 MT) levels. Seizures of ATS (fenethylline and MDMA), however, rose considerably to 3.34 million tablets, up from approximately 140,000 over the same nine month period in 2014 and approximate to the 4.3 million tablets that were seized in 2013. There was also a sharp increase in the volume of acetic anhydride seized during this time period, resulting in the capture 1,919 liters of the chemical used in refining heroin, compared to 251 liters seized during the same period in 2014. The amount of cocaine seized between January and October in 2015 totaled approximately 265.4 kilograms (kg), comparable to the 256.8 kg seized over the same period in 2014. Seizures of synthetic cannabinoids (known as “bonsai: or “spice”) fell to 288.69 kg during this same time period, from approximately 504.3 kg seized during the same period in 2014.
3. Public Information, Prevention, 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 nongovernmental organizations and is mainly funded through the state and health insurance.
Most Turkish treatment services for those with substance use disorders 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 illegal drug use remains modest in scale in Turkey compared to other countries in the surrounding region, the number of people seeking treatment for substance use disorders is increasing. The Ministry of Health has responsibility for promoting drug awareness and providing treatment, but it remains underfunded 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 2015.
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.