|Thursday, 1 January 2004|
by Asanga Warnakulasuriya and Puttalam District Group Correspondent
The CID and Police hunting for the suspects behind the recent human smuggling attempt where 269 Italy bound illegal migrants were taken into custody by the Navy on December 23 near Iranawila had uncovered evidence pointing to the involvement of a leading UNF politico, in the racket, a senior police officer revealed.
Investigations so far revealed that apart from the two masterminds, between 10 to 15 sub agents were behind the deal, SSP D.Y.S Samaratunga told the Daily News yesterday.
Though the trawler boat valued at around Rs. 5 million was built to carry only 160 passengers, it was transporting 269 persons, the SSP said adding that had the vessel developed a mechanical fault and stalled in mid sea all on board would have perished since the journey to Italy was to last 20 -30 days.
A senior police officer also said that a suspect in custody had revealed that the boat capable of carrying only 160 people was loaded with another 100 at the request of the politico to the main human smuggling agent.
According to the confession by the suspect although the main agent had planned to take 169 people to Italy, the politico is alleged to have interfered in the deal and had requested the agent to take another 100 people. The politico who had collected the money from 100 would be migrants had later handed over these persons to the main agent sans the money to transport them to Italy.
It is also revealed that the chief human smuggling agent realising the risk faced by the overloaded trawler and also the prospect of being cheated by the politico had allegedly tipped off the CID.
The persons ready to flee to Italy were taken in a dingy boat to the trawler which was anchored four miles offshore near Iranawila.
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