Thursday, June 16, 2016

THE COCAINE BUST: Street value of Rs2B – More questions than answers!

A team under the direction of the Finance Ministry and independent of the Customs, discovered this cocaine in a sugar consignment from Brazil.

Apparently it was after a tip off that the container was kept under surveillance and pounced upon. Why did they not wait for scanning to see if it would have been detected then? If it had not, then we can investigate the Customs officials, but now the crooks in the Customs will get off scot free, and continue with other cocaine supplies, as it must have been coming for years, undetected!

These are questions we will have to ask. It is fine for the officers who busted this to take credit this time, and it was also noteworthy that the President was also present at the Container Yard.

Whose yard is it? Customs, or a private bonded warehouse YARD? Either way, we MUST be very concerned about how easy it has been for this type of hard drugs to come into Sri Lanka, and the whole nation is currently fighting a drug menace of massive proportions, that the Security Forces have NOT been able to get an handle on.

Just today, there was a full page article in the Lankadeepa paper about the movement of drugs from Colombo up to the Hill Country, and the method that is used to get it there. This is all in the hands of the DRUG LORDS who have political protection, and I implore the President to show NO MERCY towards these people.

WE MUST get the culprits. Remember we are a country where honest people are always set up so the crooks get away. So we must be sure that we catch the top dogs and not the small fry who get fried for a small crime!

Cleaning up customs MUST be top of the agenda as money flowing through that route is still the big bucks, and I am surprised that there is NO AUTOMATIC system of tracking untoward movement in lifestyle and funds of Customs Officials which is very easy, once you bring friends and family into the loop, and use some simple software to trigger an investigation. Honest guys have NOTHING to worry, the crooks WILL GET CAUGHT no matter what they do, trust me with that SYS. 


    Tthe FMSOU keep the Customs out of the detection? Did it do so as it did not want to share the credit for its feat with anyone else? Or, did it seek to show the Customs in a bad light by stealing a march on them for political reasons because the Customs trade unions have locked horns with the government on issues such as the Prado scam.

    We are given to understand that the FMSOU was set up as the government felt the country was losing a great deal of revenue annually due to various rackets involving liquor and imports and exports. In other words, government has lost its faith in two key state institutions—the Excise Department and the Customs. The question is why keep a dog and bark yourself?

    If any Excise officers or members of the Customs are in league with racketeers or found wanting, they must be severely dealt with. The general consensus is that the Customs Department is one of the most corrupt public institutions in the country. In fact, some of their officers have been caught in the act of accepting huge bribes. A few weeks ago we exposed a racket where three vehicles were found in a container declared as used equipment. The importer concerned was arrested and remanded but the Customs bigwig on whose orders the container was released has gone scot free!

    The solution to the problem of rampant corruption and serious lapses on the part of the Customs, in our book, is to give that department a radical shake-up and weed out corrupt elements. We are afraid that setting up ad hoc outfits functioning directly under politicians, however efficient they may be at present, is not the way out.

    The Customs unions are protesting against a government move to replace the Customs Ordinance with a Customs Code which they claim will stand racketeers in good stead. That the Customs are characterised by corruption, inefficiency etc. must not be used as an excuse for doing away with the time-tested laws, rules and regulations. If the Customs Ordinance needs revision, so be it. But, the baby must not be thrown out with the bath water.

    As for the 2013 bust, the foreign drug smuggler with political connections had obtained a letter from no less a person than the then Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne to have priority clearance for his container where the banned substance was hidden. It was the heyday of the previous government, but the Customs, to their credit, did not give in to political pressure.

    Interestingly, President Maithripala Sirisena rushed to the Orugodawatte container yard on Tuesday following the drug bust. In so doing, he demonstrated his commitment to the on-going campaign to rid the country of the scourge of narcotics.

    There are other issues which cannot be tackled without the President’s intervention. One is the illegal reclamation of low-lying lands in and around the Kurunegala town. Powerful elements backed by ruling party politicians are behind the racket according to Kurunegala Mayor Gamini Peramunage. He has told this newspaper that the illegal filling will render Kurunegala prone to floods. We have quoted the police as having said that they cannot act as there has been no complaint. They trotted out the same excuse when a jogging track was demolished under their nose in Wattala about three months ago.

    Will the President, in his capacity as the Minister of Environment, intervene to ensure that the illegal land reclamation in Kurunegala is brought to an immediate end and the culprits are arrested?

  2. CEYLON TODAY 17June 2016
    The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) has begun inquiries to determine where 24 container loads of sugar had been removed from the ship which brought a consignment of sugar in which cocaine valued at Rs 2 billion had been concealed.

    The container holding bags of sugar in which the Rs 2 billion cocaine haul was made had been detected by PNB officials at the Orugodawatta Container Yard last Tuesday.

    PNB sources told this paper that suspicions had been raised as to how the sugar containers which were unloaded at the Colombo Port on 5 June had been released from the harbour without the cocaine being detected by the Customs scanner.

    Police also suspect the 24 sugar containers had been released along with eight other containers so as to escape detection.
    PNB sources said they had sought assistance from the French Embassy as well in the investigations, but would not elaborate.
    PNB sources said, a suspect in this cocaine haul had fled to India Wednesday but Police and diplomatic moves were underway to have him deported back to Sri Lanka by the Indian authorities.

  3. CEYLON TODAY 17 June 2016

    The All Ceylon Customs Services Union (ACCSU) has requested President Maithripala Sirisena to destroy the stocks of illegal drugs, detained by the Customs, in the presence of Customs officers as it would then serve as in preventing such stocks falling into the hands of big-time drug smugglers.

    ACCSU Secretary J.A. Gunathilaka, submitting a letter to President Sirisena last Wednesday, had noted that the public were curious to know as to what happens to the large illegal drug stocks regularly taken into custody by the Sri Lanka Customs.

    "The people are of the view that such stocks, taken into custody by the Customs, tend to be sold in the local market. There is a quite a suspicion on it. Furthermore, despite many stocks of such illegal drugs being taken into custody, there does not seem to be any shortage of it in the local market. Also as these drug stocks are kept for judicial tests, if such stocks were to fall into the hands of a weak officer, a big issue could arise. The reason for that being as most big-time drug peddlers are underworld figures they could use their force and reissue such stocks to the local market. It is for those reasons that we have decided to urge the President to order such stocks to be destroyed in public," said ACCSU Secretary Gunathilaka.