Throwing the dragnet far and wide | Daily News


Throwing the dragnet far and wide

The unrelenting war waged against the underworld and the narcotics trade by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa certainly is paying dividends, with almost daily arrests of key figures of the underworld and the collapse of drug empires as reported in the media.

The latest detection relates to the seizure of 900 perches of land worth Rs. 4,000 million together with other prime assets and 26 motor vehicles including luxury brands, following the arrest of leading underworld figures in the Western Province. The suspects have been maintaining 102 bank accounts where Rs. 2600 million worth of transactions had been carried out.

What is more, the arrest of key collaborators within the law enforcement arms and the drug running conduits where the role of members of the Police Service has been brought to light, the unraveling of the dark underbelly of the prisons which have turned out to be havens for drug kingpins to carry out their business from behind prison walls, is clearly indicative of the outstanding success achieved by the Government in taming the underworld and ridding the country of this deadly spectre.

What is appalling in this whole sordid saga is the extent of the involvement of the police, including Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) sleuths, in the drugs business. Newspapers reported that a brother of a Police Constable of the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) had been arrested with 46 kilogrammes of heroin, with investigations currently on to ascertain if the Constable concerned too was involved in the racket.

During the Coronavirus pandemic a police officer was nabbed transporting heroin in a three-wheeler which clearly shows the active involvement of the law enforcement members in the drug trafficking business. No wonder the Narcotics trade has been growing exponentially over the years with the authorities none the wiser as to the underlining cause for their failure all these years to successfully tackle the drugs underworld.

Certainly, now that war against the underworld is fought in earnest more details are bound to transpire as to the full extent of the involvement of law officers in the drugs trade. This is not to belittle the efforts of police officers who are working with dedication and commitment to see an early end to this menace. But like in almost every department there are rotten apples who bring to naught the dedicated efforts of others by their venal conduct. At least now these elements should be identified and got rid of in any overhaul carried out in the Police establishment, which just celebrated its 154th anniversary.

In all probability we are here only seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Given the extent and magnitude of the involvement of law enforcement officers (with two employees of the Government Analyst’s Department too in the net) there is no knowing how far and wide the operation has spread. If so, total eradication will be some time in coming.

In this context it is a wise move to get the STF in the forefront of the battle against the drugs underworld with the stellar reputation of the outfit for combat and daring during battles with the LTTE. Not just the Police, the dragnet should be thrown far and wide if complete success is to be achieved in the fight against the narcotics trade.

One is compelled to ask how the banks accepted such large sums without asking any questions. We say this because any ordinary depositor is subject to close scrutiny when he/she deposits even Rs. 100,000 in a bank. All kinds of questions are asked by the bank authorities to satisfy themselves that everything is above board. Here we have a scenario where a cumulative Rs. 2600 million not only being deposited (laundered actually) with the banks but also being freely moved around.

Ditto for the Motor-vehicle Registrations Department (RMV). How were all these vehicles registered? No questions have apparently been asked on the source of wealth and the Department of Inland Revenue too has apparently been bypassed. How did the 900 perches of land purchased by the underworld gangs pass muster without any questions by the Land Registry? These transactions could not have taken place overnight, but over a long period of time.

The other day a Senior DIG told the media that there were 400 hardcore criminals operating in the Western Province alone and even went on to venture out their numerous aliases. Their crime spree countrywide is well known. If so why are the Police waiting without arresting them and taking legal action against them?

The drugs trade in this country, as elsewhere, has grown into a hydra-headed monster where all agencies suspected of collusion would have to be neutralized if we are to see an end to the problem. We repeat - throw the dragnet far and wide and we are bound to hit on a viable solution before long.

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