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The case of the 'Moonshine' baron

Sunday crime by Jayampathy Jayasinghe Muthurajawela came to the limelight recently when the Police Central Anti-Vice Striking Force (CAVSF) discovered an illicit hooch distillery located in the heart of the marshy land.

Muthurajawela is a swampy marshy land. It is the largest environmental habitat located outside the boundary of Colombo. Muthurajawela is important for many reasons. This marshy land has prevented Colombo from flooding during the monsoonal season with excess water flowing into it.

Being an abandoned and isolated marshy land it acquired notoriety as a safe haven for illicit hooch manufacturers and bootleggers.


Recovery of Illicit hooch barrels

It is known as a den for moonshine because accessability thorough swampy muddy water is tedious. This was the place where Somarama Thero, the assassin of late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, practised by aiming his revolver at bunches of king coconuts.

Muthurajawela once again came into the limelight recently when the Police, Central Anti-Vice Striking Force (CAVSF) based at Walana conducted a lightening raid on a thriving illicit hooch distillery located in the heart of the marshy land in the Pamunugama police area. DIG, D.A. Fonseka, the head of the Central Anti Vice Striking Force, was tipped off by an informant that a large scale illicit distillery was in operation in the marshy land of Muthurajawela.

The distillery functions from morning till evening and thereafter from dusk to dawn to meet the demand for liquor during the festive season. In fact a multi millionaire businessman was behind the racket. He had owned ten luxury vehicles including Toyota Prados to transport illicit liquor to distant places like Kurunegala, Kandy, Mawathagama, Panadura Kalutara, Puttalam, Chillaw and Colombo.

The stuff was packed in polythene bags and concealed in vehicles. The moment DIG Fonseka heard the story his response was swift. He did not waver to raid the illicit distillery. Although the Walana Vice Squad had raided Muthurajawela on previous years, it had bounced back into business due to its lucrative profits. According to police around 1500 bottles of Unlawfully Distilled Sprits (UDS)is manufactured daily at this facility to meet the demand.

The covert operation was kept as a closely guarded secret by senior police officers till arrangements were finalised to raid the distillery. This was because they feared information would leak out to the suspect.

The man who masterminded the illicit liquor operation during the past decade was a thirty year old multi- millionaire from Ja-ela. He owned three luxury mansions and a fleet of luxury vehicles. Although stunningly rich no one believed that he was an illicit manufacturer of liquor. He did all this under the very nose of the Police and Excise officials in the area, for so long.

It was December when DIG D.A. Fonseka summoned SSP Jayantha Perera, ASP D.L. Ranaweera and Inspector Duminda Balasuriya of the Central Anti Vice Striking Force (CAVSF) for a closed door session. The policemen mapped out a strategy and a date was set to raid the place. The raid was to be conducted by Inspector Duminda Balasuriya with 30 policemen in civilian clothes in the middle of the night. They were to proceed to Muthurajawela in two private vehicles posing off as businessmen .

In mid December around 12.a.m. Inspector Balasuriya accompanied by 30 policemen left their Panadura station and arrived at Kalu-eliya in the Kadana area. After abandoning their vehicles on the Negombo- Kadana highway the policemen proceeded on foot towards Muthurajawela.

They took a circuitous route and had to wade through the knee deep mud in marshy land before arriving at Muthurajawela _ a distance of about 2.5 kilometres from the main road. The idea was to avoid being seen by henchmen of illicit kassippu dealers at Muthurajawela armed with cellular mobile phones. The men work for kassippu dealers and their job is to alert men at the distillery when they come across Police or Excise officers or any other suspicious characters.

The police party finally arrived at the distillery around 5.30.am. and found several persons engaged in the distillation process. They found 130 iron barrels and several spiral coils used for the distillation process.

Some barrels of moonshine were also buried in the muddy waters. According to Inspector Balasuriya the moonshine found was worth several millions of rupees. Each barrel had contained 50 bottles of moonshine. Police later arrested the multi-millionaire businessman who had financed the operation and handed him over to the Kadana police for further investigations.

According to figures released by the Central Anti-Vice Striking Force (CAVSF) based at Walana Panadura the following detections were carried out by the unit countrywide from January -December 2006.

(1) Total number of detections 5457

(2) Illicit Liquor cases 4996

(3) Sand mining, illicit gemming, recovery of weapons 160 cases

(4) Other cases 345

(5) 3666 cases have been concluded.

(6) 1791 cases are pending in courts.

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