Cablegate: Morocco: 2008-2009 International Narcotics Control
DE RUEHRB #1049/01 3091637
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041637Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9307
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 4916
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 6056
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 5129
UNCLAS RABAT 001049
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/MAG AND INL
PASS TO DEA PARIS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR MO
SUBJECT: MOROCCO: 2008-2009 INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL
REF: STATE 100989
1. Summary: The Government of Morocco (GOM) has achieved
significant reductions in its cannabis and cannabis resin
production in recent years. Advances in Morocco,s
counternarcotics efforts appear to be a function of the GOM's
comprehensive counternarcotics strategy, which places
emphasis on combining conventional law enforcement, crop
eradication, international cooperation, and demand reduction
efforts with economic development to erode the "cannabis
growing culture8 that exists in northern Morocco. The vast
majority of cannabis produced in Morocco is consumed in
Europe and has little, if any, impact on the U.S. market for
illegal drugs. Morocco is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Status of Country
2. Morocco is the world,s largest cannabis resin (hashish)
producer and has consistently ranked among the world,s
largest producers of cannabis, but its importance as a main
source country for cannabis resin is declining. The 2008
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that
fewer countries around the world are citing Morocco as the
&source8 country or &origin8 of the cannabis resin found
in their markets. The percentage of countries citing Morocco
as the origin of hashish found in their markets has dropped
from 31 percent in 2003 to 18 percent in 2006. This progress
appears to testify to the GOM,s counter drug efforts and
Afghanistan's increased cannabis resin production.
3. Cannabis remains primarily an export for Moroccan
growers, with the vast majority of the product typically
processed into cannabis resin or oil and exported
predominately to Europe. Only very small amounts of cannabis
and narcotics being produced in or transiting through Morocco
reach the United States.
4. The cannabis industry serves as a livelihood for large
segments of Morocco,s population situated in the northern
tip of the country between the Rif Mountains and the
Mediterranean Sea, where cultivation is centered.
Approximately 760,000 Moroccans living in roughly 60 percent
of villages in that area are involved in cannabis
cultivation, according to the GOM.
5. The center of cannabis production in Morocco appears to
have shifted from Chefchaouen to al-Hoceima due to GOM
eradication efforts. Nearly 50 percent of cannabis
cultivation occurs in al-Hoceima, with the surrounding
provinces of Taounate, Tetouan and Chefchaouen, largely
making up the rest of production. According to the GOM, the
province of Larache has become a less important area for
6. Comparatively a smaller problem but growing rapidly,
Morocco is also combating the growth in trafficking and
consumption of &harder drugs,8 particularly cocaine.
According to the GOM, South American drug smugglers are
transporting increased amounts of the drug through Morocco
and onward to Europe.
7. Heroin and psychotropic drugs (methamphetamine, Ecstasy,
etc.) are also making inroads into the country but to a
lesser extent than cocaine. To date, Morocco has no known
enterprises that use dual-use precursor chemicals, and the
country neither serves as a known source nor transit point
8. Morocco,s national strategy to combat drugs rests on the
four pillars of: (1) interdiction, (2) eradication, (3)
international cooperation, and (4) demand reduction. Data
suggests that Morocco,s strongest actions have been in the
areas of interdiction and eradication. GOM officials seek to
build upon their already strong existing relationships with
international organizations such as the UNODC, the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Agency (DEA), the International Narcotics Control
Board (OICS), and INTERPOL. Demand reduction efforts;
however, have been weak, as GOM officials still consider this
to be mainly a European issue.
9. Morocco,s national drug strategy is augmented by an
emphasis on a broader economic development approach and crop
substitution. Moroccan officials, however, readily admit
that alternatives are often a &hard sell8 to farmers who
can earn 18 times the earnings of a substitute crop such as
barley by continuing to grow cannabis.
10. Moroccan authorities reported that they hope to complete
another detailed drug study in cooperation with UNODC as well
as revise their national drug strategy in 2009. Moroccan
Ministry of Interior (MOI) authorities stated that they now
have a goal to reduce cannabis cultivation to 12,000 ha by
the year 2012. If this goal is accomplished, it will mean
that Morocco will have reduced cannabis cultivation by 91
percent since it first started serious eradication efforts in
Law Enforcement Efforts
11. According to statistics from the Moroccan MOI, the
following table is a summary of Morocco,s drug seizure
efforts since 2004. The decrease in cannabis and hashish
seizures between 2007 and 2008 may partly be the result of
successful GOM eradication efforts and droughts rendering
less cannabis and hashish available on the local market.
Note: 2008 figures include January through September only.
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Cannabis 318MT 116MT 60MT 209MT 163MT
Hashish 86MT 96MT 89MT 118MT 79MT
Cocaine 4kg 8kg 57kg 248kg 25kg
Heroin 1,001g 5,335g 714g 1,906g 5,932g
168,257 94,900 55,881 55,243 35,673
12. The GOM reports it has deployed 11, 000 personnel into
the Rif mountains and throughout the northern coastal areas
to interdict drug shipments, maintain counternarcotics
checkpoints, and staff observation posts along the coast.
The Moroccan Navy carries out routine sea patrols. GOM
forces are now using helicopters, planes, speed boats, mobile
x-ray scanners, ultrasound equipment, and satellites in their
drug fight. The mobile x-ray scanner has proven to be
particularly effective, allowing GOM officials to seize a
record quantity of 11 metric tons (MT) of cannabis resin in
Tangier in December 2006. The Moroccan Navy used a similar
scanner to seize 3 MT of cannabis resin in April 2008 alone.
The GOM recently acquired another mobile x-ray scanner for
use in the port city of Nador.
13. In 2007, Morocco reports it arrested 18,734 Moroccans
and 590 foreigners in connection with drug-related offenses.
Of the foreigners arrested, 158 were Spanish, 70 French, 34
Romanian, 32 Dutch, 19 Belgian and 8 Italian. Arrests of
traffickers at the ports, and at the Casablanca airport of
arriving cocaine &mules8 from Sub-Saharan Africa, are
frequently in the news. In 2007, 93 kg of the total 248 kg
of cocaine seized by the GOM was seized at the Mohammed V
International Airport in Casablanca; the majority of the 84
smugglers were West Africans in transit to Europe. Detection
training and the use of ultrasound equipment were critical to
the success of these seizures. As authorities become more
vigilant, GOM officials opine that cocaine smugglers are
likely to seek access to Europe through much harder to detect
land routes and other methods.
14. Moroccan law provides a maximum allowable prison
sentence for drug offenses of 30 years, as well as fines for
illegal drug violations ranging from USD 20,000-80,000. Ten
to fifteen years imprisonment remains the typical sentence
for major drug traffickers convicted in Morocco.
15. Of special note, an American citizen was arrested on May
7, 2008 by Moroccan officials for an alleged drug shipment.
On June 15, 2008, he was sentenced to seven years in prison,
fined 1,200 USD, and had his aircraft confiscated. The court
also sentenced two Moroccan accomplices to prison terms of
six and four years respectively, and acquitted two others.
16. As a matter of government policy, the GOM 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. These actions are illegal and the government
tries to enforce these laws to the best of its ability.
Despite GOM actions to combat the illicit drug trafficking
industry, narcotics-related corruption among governmental,
judicial, military and law enforcement officials appears to
17. In August 2006, authorities arrested senior government
official Abdelaziz Izzou (the head of security at Morocco's
royal palaces) for his cooperation with a major drug baron
when he was head of the Tangier judicial police from 1996 to
2003. After a lengthy trial, Izzou received an 18 month
prison sentence and had 700,000 MAD (approximately 100,000
USD) seized by the state in March 2008.
18. In December 2007, notorious drug baron Mohamed Taieb
Ahmed (AKA &El Nene8) escaped from prison in Kenitra with
the assistance of local prison guards. Authorities
re-captured &El Nene8 in Spain in April 2008. For the role
they played in the escape, Moroccan courts sentenced six
Kenitra prison guards to prison terms ranging between two
suspended months and four years on charges of forgery,
corruption, and assisting a prisoner in escaping from
custody. The GOM changed the management of its prison system
and is also in the process of reinforcing prison security in
response to this and other prison escapes in early 2008.
19. In January 2008, Moroccan authorities prosecuted three
members of the gendarmerie (rural police) on corruption
charges following a complaint made by an airline passenger
traveling through the Agadir-Al Massira Airport. Moroccan
police arrested the son of former Mauritanian president
Khouna Ould Haidalla in July 2008 for attempting to smuggle
18 kg of cocaine. In October 2008, he was convicted and
sentenced to seven years in prison.
20. During a speech in August 2008, King Mohammed VI called
on the government to work actively to ensure that the Central
Authority for the Prevention of Corruption become a reality.
While not very effective at the moment, such an agency may
prove helpful in fighting corruption within the illicit drug
trade industry in future years.
Agreements and Treaties
21. Morocco is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the
1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1961 UN
Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol. Morocco
is also a party to the UN Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime. Morocco and the United States cooperate in
law enforcement matters under a Mutual Legal Assistance
Treaty (MLAT). Morocco is a party to the UN Convention
against Corruption. Morocco has several cooperative
agreements to fight against drugs with European countries
such as Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy, and it seeks to
work closely with other Arab and African countries.
22. Morocco succeeded in decreasing the land dedicated to
cannabis cultivation by 46 percent from 134,000 hectares in
2003 to 72,500 hectares in 2005, due in part to an aggressive
eradication campaign, carried out mainly by Gendarme and
local authorities, according to GOM officials. Cannabis
resin production dropped 61 percent from 3,070 MT to 1,070 MT
during the same time period. Morocco used the following
methods to eradicate illicit crops: (1) crop-dusting via
airplane, (2) mechanical and manual destruction of crops and
23. GOM officials report that during the first phase of the
2008 eradication campaign, they were able to eradicate a
total of 4,376 ha of cannabis in the northern provinces.
This includes 2,695 ha in Taounate, 985 ha in Chefchaouen,
130 ha in Tetouan and 565 ha in Larache.
24. Given its proximity to Morocco, Spain is a key transfer
point for Europe-bound Moroccan cannabis resin where it can
normally be transshipped to most other Western European
destinations. France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy are
also major European destinations for cannabis trafficked from
25. The contraband is transported mainly via maritime and
overland routes from northern Morocco, according to the GOM.
Most large shipments of illicit cannabis bound for Spain
travel via speedboats, which can make the roundtrip to Spain
in one hour or less, although fishing boats, yachts, and
other vessels are also used. Smugglers also continue to
transport cannabis via truck and car through the Spanish
enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, known to have lower inspection
standards than the rest of the European Union, and the
Moroccan port of Tangier, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by
ferry. Spain,s deployment of a network of fixed and modular
radar, infrared, and video sensors around the Strait of
Gibraltar, starting in 1999 and known as the Integrated
System of External Vigilance (SIVE), has forced Moroccan
smugglers to take longer and more vulnerable routes.
26. Latin American drug organizations have begun in recent
years to exploit Morocco,s well-established cannabis routes
to smuggle cocaine and perhaps also heroin into Europe.
Although the main African redistribution centers for cocaine
from Latin America remain sub-Saharan, including Ghana,
Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria, Morocco is increasingly
being used as a transit country in a trend that can be
expected to continue. In October 2008, the Colombian
National Police seized a shipping container destined for
Morocco with a declared cargo of aluminum roofing sheets but
also containing 324 grams of cocaine.
27. Trans-national drug trafficking networks are a growing
problem for Morocco. Although French and Spanish networks
are more prevalent, Romanian drug networks appeared in
Morocco for the first time in 2007 when 34 Romanian
traffickers were arrested. There are initial indications of
a Russian organized crime presence in Morocco, but not so far
clearly engaged in narco-trafficking.
Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction
28. The GOM is concerned about signs of an increase in
domestic cocaine and heroin use, but does not aggressively
promote reduction in domestic demand for these drugs or for
cannabis. Some press estimates suggest that as many as ten
percent of adults regularly use cannabis, but the GOM does
not currently have an effective system in place to measure
and evaluate the situation. Morocco has established a
program to train the staffs of psychiatric hospitals in the
treatment of drug addiction. In partnership with UNODC, the
Ministry of Health is exploring the relationship between drug
use and HIV/AIDS infection in Morocco. Moroccan civil
society and some schools are active in promoting
counternarcotics use campaigns.
29. The USG is working to enhance Morocco,s
counternarcotics capability through training in law
enforcement techniques, and to promote the GOM,s adherence
to its obligations under relevant bilateral and international
narcotics control agreements. U.S.-supported efforts to
strengthen anti-money laundering laws and efforts against
terrorist financing may also contribute to the GOM,s ability
to monitor the flow of money from the cannabis trade.
30. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which covers
Morocco from its Paris office, continued its bilateral
exchange of information with the Moroccans in support of
several ongoing drug investigations in 2008. The DEA invited
the Director of Morocco,s Investigative Police Agency to
participate as an observer in the July 2008 International
Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Istanbul, Turkey.
Morocco has now requested full membership in the IDEC. The
USG is presently working to provide the GOM a DEA
internet-based communication tool that will enable Morocco to
communicate directly with other countries in the region as
well as South American counterparts. This new communication
system will allow real time exchange of intelligence
information. In 2008, the U.S. DEA office in Paris was able
to facilitate meetings and exchanges between the GOM and
Colombian officials to discuss South American trafficking
networks and the threat they pose to Africa.
31. USG training remains an important factor in Morocco,s
efforts to combat illegal narcotics. During FY 2008, the
U.S. Government provided training to Moroccan police,
gendarmes, and customs officials in the areas of (1)
narcotics identification and testing, (2) advanced U.S. Coast
Guard boarding procedures, (3) fraudulent document detection
and (4) customs and border issues. The GOM requested 2009
narcotics-related training assistance from the U.S. in the
areas of airport interdiction, basic investigator techniques
and money laundering. Other programs are anticipated in
support of the administration of justice that may favorably
impact our continued involvement.
32. The endemic nature of the cannabis culture in Morocco
will only be ameliorated through incremental application of
Morocco,s comprehensive counternarcotics strategy. The U.S.
will continue to monitor the illegal drug situation in
Morocco, cooperate with the GOM in its counternarcotics
efforts, and, together with the EU, provide law enforcement
training, intelligence and other support for the foreseeable
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;