Restructuring of Bulgaria’s law enforcement slowed efforts against illegal drugs – report

International drug trafficking organisations continue to traffic cocaine, heroin, synthetic drugs, and increasingly chemical precursors through Bulgaria into consumer countries in Western Europe, according to a new report by the United States state department.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, submitted to the US congress on March 18, said that Bulgaria is strategically situated along the Balkan Route for illicit drugs and other contraband trafficked from Southwest Asia into Western Europe.

In 2014, drug trafficking organisations with ties to Africa and the Middle East continued to partner with Bulgarian organised crime networks to transport cocaine and heroin into Europe from South America, the report said.

Domestic production of illegal drugs continues to be confined primarily to cannabis cultivation — which is mainly for local consumption — and synthetic drugs such as amphetamines, which are manufactured in small laboratories for both personal use and local sales.

An institutional restructuring of law enforcement services in 2013 led to several months of inactivity and generally slowed investigative work, the report said in a reference to legislative changes at the time of the now-departed ruling axis of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms – changes recently reversed, in turn, by the centre-right government that came to power in November 2014.

The division of duty between the Ministry of Interior and the State Agency for National Security had remained unclear into 2014, which further fragmented drug law enforcement efforts, the US state department report said.

The Customs Agency (BNCS), under the Ministry of Finance, has authority to investigate drug trafficking along Bulgaria’s borders.

Internal restructuring within the Agency and prioritization of taxable contraband (that is, cigarettes) has resulted in relatively low drug seizures in recent years, but in 2014, successful interagency joint operations led to the interdiction of several hundreds of kilograms of drugs, including quantities of heroin seven times higher than were confiscated in 2013, the report said.

Authorities also continued to seize many new psychoactive substances, including popular synthetic cannabinoids.

There has not been significant research into drug addiction within Bulgaria since 2009 when authorities estimated that the country had approximately 30,000 regular drug users, the report said.

Marijuana is the most widely used drug, followed by synthetic drugs and heroin, according to the report.

According to government statistics, while the number of regular drug users has not fluctuated much in recent years, polydrug use has increased and presents a challenge for traditional methods of treatment.

Bulgarian law enforcement agencies continue to collaborate closely with the US Drug Enforcement Administration on counternarcotics issues and investigations. An extradition treaty is in force between the United States and Bulgaria, but only a partial mutual legal assistance treaty exists as a protocol to a broader US-EU agreement on the subject, the report said.

(Photo: rotorhead)



The Sofia Globe staff

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