Total 1.6 tons heroin haul for 2019, 35,702 suspects | Daily News


Total 1.6 tons heroin haul for 2019, 35,702 suspects

The total quantity of heroin detected so far this year amounts to over 1.6 metric tons and 35,702 suspects have been arrested in this connection, the Police revealed yesterday. Briefing news media at Police Narcotics Bureau yesterday, Police Media Spokesman SSP Ruwan Gunasekara also disclosed that the authorities were preparing to seize the assets of 24 big-time drug dealers identified as king-pins in the multi-billion dollar drug smuggling and retailing underworld.

At yesterday’s briefing the Navy also announced its latest detection of over 200 kg of heroin on the high seas.

The Navy seized a multi-day fishing trawler suspected to be carrying over a 200kg of heroin, in the southern seas of Sri Lanka on November 3 and arrested five suspects who were on board.

Navy Media Spokesman Lt. Commander Isuru Sooriyabandara disclosed that during a special operation in the seas off Galle on November 3, naval units had spotted a suspicious multi-day fishing trawler and on searching it, had found this haul of drugs in the vessel. Sooriyabandara said the vessel was brought ashore on Sunday together with the five occupants onboard the boat.

“We found 224 kgs of substance suspected to be heroin upon initial investigation. The five suspects onboard the fishing trawler have been identified to be Sri Lankan nationals. The Navy was also able to arrest two more suspects in a dinghy, whom we suspect to have come to take over the haul of drugs and transport it ashore. All together, seven suspects have been arrested and a trawler and dinghy has been seized,” he said.

“It is believed that the suspects have attempted to smuggle the haul of drugs to the island via sea route. The seized drugs and vessel along with the suspects were handed over to the Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB) for onward investigation. This year alone, the Navy has seized about 763kgs of heroin during its operations,” the Navy Spokesman said.

He disclosed that the drugs were concealed inside barrels onboard the fishing vessel which usually stores their fishing nets. All fishing gear generally used for fishing had been onboard the trawler and the Navy suspects that the haul of drugs could have been loaded onto the fishing trawler in the open waters to be brought to the country.

The Navy Spokesman said that the Navy constantly receives international assistance for raids carried out to bust drug smuggling on the high seas and that this assistance has been vital in the successful execution of such operations.

He also urged the fishing community not to get dragged into the drug smuggling racket as it carried a death penalty and eventually their families will be left destitute. Hence, he said taking such a risk is not worth it and requested the fishing community to notify the Navy or the police in the event they detect such suspicious activities.

He noted that these drug racketeers could not run their drug smuggling operations without the support of the fishing community. The Navy intends to conduct workshops to educate the fishing communities on the risks and repercussions involved in engaging or assisting in such illegal drug operations.

The Navy, being an active member of the National Programme for Drug Prevention, has so far this year also seized three tons (3,263kg) of Kerala cannabis, 8 kg of local cannabis, 42 tons (42,851kg) of beedi leaves and a large consignment of drugs attempted to be smuggled or peddled in the country.

Police Media Spokesman SSP Ruwan Gunasekara said the five suspects onboard the fishing trawler have been identified as 50-year-old Chaminda Rohana Fernando of Marawila, 39-year-old Antony Chrishantha Fernando of Chilaw, 32-year-old Dulaj Ravindra Perera of Chilaw, 37-year-old Suranga Balangno of Marawila and 32-year-old Tharindu Jayamal Fernando of Marawila.

The above five suspects who were arrested by the Navy had been handed over to the Police for legal action.

The Police Spokesman also said that the two other suspects who were in the dingy has been identified as 32-year-old Sasindu Lakshan of Marawila and 52-year-old Jude Lansa of Kochchikade.

“In addition, the Navy had also seized a satellite phone, seven mobile phones and three GPS equipment which was also handed over to the Police Narcotics Bureau.

The stock of heroin was packed in 200 packs weighing a kilo each and packed in eight polythene bags. Initial investigations confirmed that this was heroin, but samples of these drugs have been sent to the Government Analyst for testing. The total weight of the haul of heroin has been found to be 224 kg and 166 g.”

SSP Gunasekara said that investigations have revealed the identities of three prominent drug racketeers who are suspected to be behind this latest drug haul and measures would be taken to arrest these three suspects within the next few days. “Further we are also investigating a lead regarding a suspect who is believed to be running this drug ring from overseas. We intend to obtain the assistance of the Interpol to apprehend this suspect.”

He said the seven suspects in custody will be produced before the Colombo Fort Magistrate and a 48-hour detention order would be obtained to hold them for interrogation.

So far this year the Police have seized 1638 kgs and 397g including the latest detection through raids by the PNB, STF, Navy etc. Further, 35,702 suspects have also been arrested in connection with the detection of these drugs. He also noted that investigations have revealed that this haul of drugs had been brought from Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Navy Spokesman said that it has been detected that the majority of drug exchanges happen in the seas off Galle. “The drugs that are being brought by smugglers from Iran and Pakistan and is transferred onto other boats in this region. However, the Navy said that surveillance in this region has been stepped up and international assistance has also been assured to combat the drug operations. The stock of heroin seized has been valued at over Rs. 2 billion.

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