Country Listing

Egypt Table of Contents


Drug Trafficking

The use of narcotics became an increasingly serious problem in Egypt during the 1980s. Some officials estimated that as many as 2 million Egyptians were users of illegal drugs as of 1989. Many of these users were students and children of wealthy parents. Many people used cocaine or heroin, while others used opium or hashish, which Egyptians have commonly smoked for centuries. According to one source, Egypt had about 250,000 heroin addicts in 1988. Police claimed that drug use was spreading at a frightening pace and that the rising cost of narcotics was causing addicts to commit crimes to obtain money for drugs.

A large amount of the hashish and opium sold in Egypt was produced domestically. In 1988 and 1989, however, Egyptian authorities seized large shipments of heroin and other drugs that were probably produced in Lebanon and Pakistan. An estimated 300 kilograms of heroin were sold in Egypt in 1988. In 1984 (the latest year for which data were available) an estimated 264,000 kilograms of hashish and 2,000 kilograms of opium were sold. The value of the illegal drugs sold in 1988 was estimated at US$1 billion.

Law-enforcement authorities were more successful in arresting people who sold drugs on the streets--typically owners of kiosks where cigarettes were normally purchased--than major drug dealers, who were apparently able to buy immunity by bribes to high officials. The government had begun punishing drug violations more severely and had proposed subjecting some offenders to the death penalty. Egypt convicted about 3,500 people on charges of narcotics trafficking in 1982. About 2,500 of these individuals received sentences ranging from six months to one year; about 1,000 persons received sentences of five years or less, and 15 received life sentences at hard labor. By 1988 Egypt had imposed much stiffer penalties. A woman from Britain, for example, received a twenty-five-year sentence for smuggling a small amount of heroin into the country.

Data as of December 1990