Cablegate: Finland: 2009-2010 International Narcotics

DE RUEHHE #0429/01 3201446
R 161446Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 97228

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I. Summary

Finland is not a significant narcotics-producing or
trafficking country. Drug use and drug-related crime
rates have been mixed over the past four years,
although there was significant increase in only one of
the classes of narcotics seized in 2008 -
pharmaceutical preparations classified as narcotics.
Finnish officials describe the situation as generally
stable. Finland's constitution places a strong
emphasis on the protection of civil liberties and this
sometimes adversely impacts law enforcement's ability
to investigate and prosecute drug-related crime. The
use of electronic surveillance under the Finnish
Coercive Measures Act, such as wiretapping, is
generally permitted in serious narcotics
investigations. The police may carry out a simplified
pre-trial investigation in cases where the statutory
punishment for the offence/s is restricted to a fine or
maximum of six months imprisonment (e.g. unlawful use
of narcotics). In a simplified pre-trial investigation
the questioning and other aspects of the investigation
can often be performed at the place that the offence
was committed in order to target investigation
resources towards more serious offences. Finnish
political culture tends to favor the allocation of
resources to demand reduction and rehabilitation
efforts over strategies aimed at reducing supply.
Finnish law enforcement believes that increased drug
use in Finland may be attributable to the wider
availability of narcotics within the European Union,
increased experimentation by Finnish youth and cultural
de-stigmatization of narcotics use.

While there is some overland narcotics trafficking
across the Russian border, Finnish law enforcement
believes that existing border controls are largely
effective in preventing this route from becoming a
major trafficking conduit into Finland. Estonian and
Russian organized crime syndicates, and to a lesser
degree, syndicates from other Baltic countries, are
believed responsible for most narcotics trafficking
into Finland. Estonia's accession to the Schengen
Treaty has complicated law enforcement efforts to
combat narcotics trafficking through the reduction in
border checks of the nearly 5.8 million annual
travelers and 900,000 cars, which transit between
Helsinki and Tallinn. Early indications that increased
numbers of direct flights to Asia would result in Asian
criminal syndicates becoming more involved with the
Finnish drug trade have not played out.

Finland is a major donor to the UNDCP and is active in
counternarcotics efforts within the EU. It is a party
to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Finland maintains
strong law enforcement and customs relationships with
its Baltic neighbors, the European Union and Russia -
these close ties have been very helpful in combating
the production and trafficking of narcotics in the

II. Status of Country

Narcotics production, cultivation, and the production
of precursor chemicals in Finland are very modest in
scope. Most drugs that are consumed in Finland are
produced elsewhere, and Finland is not a source country
for the export of narcotics. Estonia, Russia and Spain
are Finland's principal sources for illicit drugs, with
Spain representing the origin point within the EU for
most cocaine entering Finland. Finnish law
criminalizes the distribution, sale and transport of
narcotics; the Government of Finland cooperates with
other countries and international law enforcement
organizations regarding extradition and precursor
chemical control.

The overall incidence of drug use in Finland remains
low (relative to many other western countries);
however, drug use has increased over the past decade.
The number of different persons suspected of narcotics
offenses in 2008 was 4,543, which represented 8.6
percent of the 5.2 million person population. Cocaine
is rare, but marijuana, khat, amphetamines,
methamphetamine, synthetic club drugs, Ecstasy, LSD,
and heroin and heroin-substitutes can be found.
Finland has historically had one of Europe's lowest
cannabis-use rates. Cannabis seizures have been mixed
since 2003, with total numbers of seizures in several

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areas increasing, yet with total quantities of cannabis
seized having decreased. In 2008, the Finnish
authorities seized 56 kg of Marijuana and 41 kg of
cannabis plants. Ecstasy, GHB, Ketamine (Vitamin K)
and other MDMA-type drugs are concentrated among young
people and associated with the club culture in Helsinki
and other large cities. Social Welfare authorities
believe the introduction of GHB and other date rape
drugs into Finland has led to an increase in sexual
assaults. Changing social and cultural attitudes
towards the acceptance of limited drug use also
contribute to this phenomenon.

Heroin use began to increase in Finland in the late
1990s, but seizures have continued to decline since
2003. The quantity of seized heroin has remained small
for several years. With the exception of a 51.7 kg
seizure of heroin in 2005, seizures have never been
larger than (and consistently smaller than) 1.6 kg
since 2003. Typically, heroin is smuggled by ethnic
groups residing in Scandinavia using vehicles. They
pass by way of Germany and Denmark to the rest of

Abuse of Subutex (buprenorphine) and other heroin-
substitutes seems to have replaced heroin abuse to a
significant extent. Finnish officials note that
Finland is one of few countries reporting that people
become addicted from Subutex use. Possession of
Subutex is legal in Finland with a doctor's
prescription, but Finnish physicians do not readily
write prescriptions for Subutex unless patients are
actually in a supervised withdrawal program. Finnish
couriers do obtain Subutex from other EU countries,
however. A major change occurred at the end of 2007
when the Baltic countries joined the Schengen area.
This means that a person who resides principally in
Finland is no longer allowed to import Subutex
prescribed elsewhere. Finnish officials have not seen
a significant move to heroin now that Subutex is not as
readily available from the Baltic countries. The size
of Subutex seizures by the Finnish customs has remained
consistent over the last five years.

Finnish Customs recorded 94 firearm violations,
approximately the same amount as in the previous
reporting period. There was a total of 125 weapons
seized in connection with these violations, with 14
being firearms and 111 being gas-spray guns.

According to Finnish law enforcement, the number of
organized crime groups has grown slightly in the past
few years, and so has the number of their members; in
the end of 2008 there were 88 organized crimes groups
with some 1,200 persons. The number of crime
organizations that meet the EU criterion was 36. Most
Finnish syndicates have international contacts,
particularly with crime groups operating in Russia or
the Baltic countries.

Since Estonia's entry into the Schengen Treaty,
Estonian travelers to Finland are no longer subject to
routine customs inspection at ports-of-entry, making it
difficult to intercept narcotics. Although Estonian
syndicates control the operations, many of the domestic
street-level dealers are Finns. Estonian smugglers
also organize the shipment of Moroccan cannabis from
Southern Spain to Finland. Again, overall amounts are
small. Finnish law enforcement reports that
cooperation with Estonian law enforcement is excellent.
Finnish law enforcement appears well prepared to
address the potential use by Asian crime groups of new
air routes from Helsinki to major Asian cities like
Bangkok, Beijing and New Delhi. In 2000, Finland had 4
non-stop flights per week between Finland and Asia. In
2008, Finnair has 11 non-stop flights per day to Asia.
To reduce the likelihood of Asian syndicates'
exploiting such routes, Finnish law enforcement has
established close cooperation with airline officials
and Asian law enforcement to coordinate interdiction
efforts, including the posting of liaison personnel in
Beijing and Guangzhou.

III. Country Actions against Drugs

Policy Initiatives. Finland's comprehensive 1998
policy statement on illegal drugs articulates a zero-
tolerance policy regarding narcotics. Finnish
comprehensive drug policy is based on general public
policy measures, national legislation and international
agreements. A Government Resolution on co-operation in

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drug policy that runs from 2008 to 2011 defines an
overall plan to guide the Ministry of Social Affairs
and Health preventing drug use and distribution. In
accordance with the Government Resolution, a new
Narcotics Act was adopted by Parliament in 2008. The
Act brings the Finnish drug legislation in conformity
with the current EU provisions. However, a 2001 law
created a system of fines for simple possession
offenses rather than jail time. The fine system enjoys
widespread popular support and is chiefly used to
punish youth found in possession of small quantities of
marijuana, hashish, or Ecstasy. There is limited
political and public support for stronger punitive

Finnish officials state that new instruments available
in international cooperation, such as joint
investigation teams and the rapid exchange of
information available now that Finland is a signatory
of the Prum Convention, will support the fight against
the crime at national level.

The present legislation provides for use of wiretapping
only in those cases which would result in a prison
sentence (such as homicide, espionage, aggravated
sexual abuse and aggravated narcotic crime). A bill
went before Parliament in 2009 that attempted to expand
the use of wiretapping in criminal investigations but
it was eventually voted down. The proposal would have
also allowed wiretapping in specific criminal cases
followed by a pecuniary penalty.

Finland has a streamlined system that allows it to
categorize new designer drugs as illegal narcotics
within two to three months. Law enforcement is still
concerned with the ability of manufacturers to slightly
modify existing narcotics to make them not technically
illegal under the law. The authorities are frustrate
with the 12-24 months that the E.U. and the U.N. can
take to make new designer drugs illegal.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Finnish law enforcement
continued to effectively investigate and prosecute
instances of narcotics possession, distribution and
trafficking. Within Finland, the Finnish Police and
Customs have primary responsibility for interdicting
and investigating narcotics trafficking and
distribution (the Border Guards, who primarily
interdict narcotics during immigration checks, can
conduct investigations and since 2005 their authority
was expanded to cover all of Finland). Within the
police, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is
charged with coordinating organized crime
investigations, as well as serving as the Finnish focal
point for international law enforcement cooperation.
The police, as well as the Finnish Border Guards, fall
under the Finnish Ministry of the Interior. Customs
falls under the Finnish Ministry of Finance, and also
maintains responsibility for coordination of Finnish
customs narcotics interdiction efforts with other
nations' customs services. Finnish judicial
authorities are empowered to seize assets, real and
financial, of criminals.

Finnish law enforcement has effectively prioritized
narcotics cases through Joint Intelligence Teams and
Centers, which comprise representatives of the police,
Customs and Border Guards. These centers are located
at the national, provincial and local levels, where a
broad range of intelligence and analysis capabilities
are brought to bear in identifying priority narcotics
investigations. For instance, the center responsible
for Helsinki includes representatives from the NBI,
Helsinki police, Customs, Border Guards, prison
authorities and provincial police representatives. The
reformulation of joint Teams and Centers was initiated
in 2008 in order to enhance the criminal investigation
process. In addition to organizational changes, a new
national level situation center operating alongside the
joint Teams and Centers will provide up-to-date
information and situation monitoring for law
enforcement organs.

Additionally to the branch-specific training modules
within the Police, Customs and Border Guard
organizations, the personnel operating at the joint
Teams and Centers were provided a collective course of
crime analysis at the Police College in fall 2008.
In 2007, the Finnish law enforcement community received
additional government funding to pursue a number of
interagency, target-oriented narcotics investigations,

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including the assignment of prosecutors to an
investigation from its inception. The result of this
additional funding has been positive, allowing
authorities to target transnational organized crime
syndicates attempting to import drugs to Finland.

In 2006 Finnish Customs deployed a mobile X-ray
scanning facility at Helsinki's Western Harbor to
provide Customs with the ability to conduct scanning of
incoming trucks and containers. In 2007, Customs
employed two such scanning devices and had one
permanent scanning facility placed at Vaalimaa, which
is the primary border-crossing between Finland and
Russia. More than 25,000 cargo units were scanned by
the Finnish Customs during 2007. Additionally, Customs
has enhanced its use of narcotics detection canine
units at key ports of entry into Finland. While these
resources have yielded limited narcotics seizures, the
authorities feel that they serve a strong deterrent

The 2008 Police report on narcotics offenses and
seizures is the latest available. In 2008, Finland
experienced a 1 percent increase in the number of drug
offenses and a 10 percent decrease in the number of
aggravated narcotics offenses. 9,933 of the 16,530
offenses reported for 2008 were related to narcotics
use; the number of aggravated narcotics offenses was
869. Evidence of the limited cannabis market comes
from the Customs figures for 2008 which show seizures
totaling 56 kg of marijuana. In 2008, 25 percent of
the suspects of aggravated narcotics offenses were
foreigners; of those, 40 percent were Estonian and 21
percent were Russian.

Authorities estimate that the use of cocaine has
increased in Finland and in the other EU countries.
While overall amounts of cocaine entering Finland
remain extremely low, Finnish law enforcement believes
the importation of cocaine will continue to increase.
Finnish authorities have asserted that cocaine
predominantly enters Finland from Spain and that
Finnish motorcycle gangs play a significant role in the
supply chain. 3 kg of cocaine were seized in 2008,
down from 4 kg in 2007.

Cocaine has not threatened the position of cannabis,
amphetamine or Subutex among the most popular drugs.
Finnish authorities have noted an increase in the
number and quantity of steroid seizures on the Finnish
market, from 111,000 and 116,000 tablets/ampoules
seized in 2004 and 2005, respectively to 200,000 and
192,000 seized in 2006 and 2007.

One potentially worrying trend is that the few
smuggling enterprises that do exist are becoming
increasingly sophisticated. For instance, consignments
of amphetamine have been hidden in trucks, and
subsequently buried in remote, locations. The locations
are then mapped and sold to criminals in Estonia
handling the retail trade in Finland. To counter
schemes of this type, the Finnish police are
increasingly dependent on cooperation with their
Estonian counterparts' cooperation they describe as
outstanding. It is now estimated that 90 percent of
amphetamine is imported to Finland from or through
Estonia. Finnish law enforcement believes that
significant quantities of the amphetamine on the
Finnish market are produced in Lithuania by Lithuanian
crime groups. According to Finnish law enforcement,
Estonian and Lithuanian organized crime groups appear
to be working in close cooperation in trafficking
amphetamine into Finland

According to Customs officials, there has been an
increase in the number of Subutex couriers departing
Finland on a regular basis to Estonia and Latvia.
However, as the couriers possess valid Subutex
prescriptions, Customs authorities are prevented from
seizing these legal prescriptions. Suspected courier
travel has increased annually for the past few years.
From December 21, 2007, changes in EU regulations
prevent Latvian and Estonian pharmacies from filling
Subutex prescriptions for Finnish citizens. However,
Finnish couriers are likely attempting to identify
other EU sources for Subutex, including France.

Finland continued its impressive record on multilateral
law enforcement, working through, among other
organizations, EUROPOL, INTERPOL and the Baltic Sea
Region Task Force on organized crime. Finland

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maintains thirteen liaison officers in ten cities,
(Finland's reach extends to 36 countries if one
includes Finland's participation in the Nordic liaison
network). Along with great cooperation with Estonian
authorities, Finnish authorities report very good
cooperation with Russian authorities. Finnish law
enforcement personnel continue to conduct criminal
narcotics investigations involving Finland abroad,
including the investigation of suspects beyond
Finland's borders.

Several international joint operations were launched
during the reporting period, aimed at uncovering
connections between organized crime groups, trafficking
of drugs, illegal medicines and other substitutes,
money laundering, forgeries and cargo surveillance.
Five out of total eleven operations initiated in 2008
were EU related, two were coordinated by the European
Anti-Fraud Office and four operations were
transnational. Besides European and Finland's
neighboring countries, the cooperating partners
included countries from Asia (China, India, Thailand),
South and North America (Argentina, Chile, Peru and
U.S.) and Africa (Algeria, Tunis, Morocco).

Corruption. As a matter of government policy, Finland
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. Finnish officials do
not engage in, facilitate, or encourage the illicit
production or distribution of such drugs or substances,
or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug
transactions. Official corruption is extremely rare in
Finland. There have been no arrests or prosecutions of
public officials charged with corruption or related
offenses linked to narcotics in Finnish history.

Agreements and Treaties. Finland is a party to the
1988 UN Drug Convention. Finland is also a party to
the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972
Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic
Substances. Finland is a party to the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols
on trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling and the
UN Convention against Corruption. A 1976 bilateral
extradition treaty is in force between the United
States and Finland. Finland signed the bilateral
instrument of the EU-U.S. Extradition Treaty in 2004;
Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee approved the
Treaty in mid-2007, and the Finnish Parliament
unanimously approved the Treaty in December 2007.
Finland has also concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance
Agreement with the United States. Finland is a member
of the major Donors' Group within the Committee on
Narcotic Drugs. The vast majority of Finland's
financial and other assistance to drug-producing and
transit countries has been via the UNODC. The Treaty of
Prum, which addresses cross-border cooperation
(including information exchange) in combating crime and
terrorism, took effect in Finland in June 2007.

Cultivation/Production. There were no reported
seizures of indigenously cultivated opium, no recorded
diversion of precursor chemicals and no detection of
illicit methamphetamine, cocaine, or LSD laboratories
in Finland in 2007. Finland's climate makes
cultivation of cannabis and opium poppy almost
impossible. Local cannabis cultivation, while
described by authorities as increasing is nevertheless
believed to be limited to small-scale, indoor
hydroponic culture for individual use not sale.
Authorities see the main reason for the increase in
personal home cultivation as being mainly due to the
ease of obtaining the specialized equipment over the

Seizures by weight of cannabis plants have fluctuated
over the past several years with 2008 seeing seizures
of 41 kg, a 47 percent decrease from 2007. The other
side of this statistic is that the number of plants
seized increased dramatically, from 7600 plants in 2007
to 14000 plants in 2008. The majority of cultivation
cases were very small, with an average of 1 to 20
plants per seizure. The distribution of 22 precursor
chemicals listed by international agencies is tightly

Drug Flow/Transit. Medical narcotics (including
Subutex), amphetamine and methamphetamine represent the
majority of police seizures in Finland. Finland is not

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a major transit country for narcotics. Most drugs
trafficked into Finland originate or pass through
Estonia. Finnish authorities report that their land
border with Russia is well guarded on both sides to
ensure that it does not become a major transit route.

Domestic Programs/Demand Reduction. According to the
Development Center for Social Affairs and Health, there
are approximately 20,000 registered drug users in
Finland, with some 10,000 undergoing treatment.
Despite these low numbers, the Ministry of Health and
Social Services has stated that the Government must do
more to reduce demand. The central government gives
substantial autonomy to regional and municipal
governments to address demand reduction using general
revenue grants, and often relies upon the efforts of
Finnish NGOs. Finnish schools continued to educate
students about the dangers of drugs. Finland's national
public health service offered rehabilitation services
to users and addicts. Such programs typically use a
holistic approach that emphasizes social and economic
reintegration into society and is not solely focused on
eliminating the subject's use and abuse of illegal
drugs. The government has been criticized for its
failure to provide adequate access to rehabilitation
programs for prison inmates. An additional challenge
in Finland in terms of treatment is that there is no
substitute treatment for amphetamine in Finland.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives and Bilateral Cooperation. The U.S.
has worked with Finland and the other Nordic countries
through multilateral organizations in an effort to
combat narcotics trafficking in the Nordic-Baltic
region. This work has involved U.S. assistance to and
cooperation with the Baltic countries and Russia.

The Road Ahead. The U.S. anticipates continued close
cooperation with Finland in the fight against
narcotics. Finnish law enforcement is expected to
maintain its willingness to work with relevant U.S. law
enforcement agencies, and is well positioned to
exchange law enforcement information and
collaboratively pursue narcotics traffickers and
international organized criminal entities involved in
the manufacture and distribution of narcotics


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