Heroin smuggling, a growing threat to Sri Lanka
Heroin is a destructive and dangerous drug which is highly addictive.
Millions are using this worldwide where thousands die annually and has
been classified as a class one narcotic prohibited in almost everywhere.
Due to the high availability and the cheap selling rates it has become a
popular and a common narcotic in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Customs officers inspecting a heroin haul
Searching for fake potatoes containing narcotics
Oranges containing heroin
Until a few years back Sri Lanka was getting its quota of Heroin
through illegal and unguarded ways and means like sea routes.
Consignments of heroin have reportedly been smuggled into the country by
foreign boatmen who would conduct the deal in mid sea operations where
the narcotics are being handed over to the local boatmen in Chilaw,
Mannar and Thalaimannar areas notorious for its involvement in receiving
stocks of drugs. The heroin received from those sea routes had been
secretly spread throughout the country by third and fourth parties
engaged in the drug chain.
However this trend seemed to have changed since a few years time
where the smugglers were daring enough to bring in the narcotics through
heavily guarded points like airports and harbours or courier them via
reputed parcel handling services like simple cargo. Numerous attempts to
smuggle in heroin through the airport or the harbour had been thwarted
by the respective officials, which seemed to be a growing trend since
2010 or perhaps since the end of the war. The reports received by the
intelligence agencies that the LTTE was engaged in drug traffic might
have resulted in the narcotics being smuggled into the country through
unguarded sea routes . But since the elimination of the terrorist outfit
the doors to these external smuggling routes must have been shut.
Instead the smugglers must have picked up new strategies to maintain the
Also it is interesting to note the new methods being adopted by the
traffickers who would go to extraordinary heights in doing so. This was
proved by the latest detection made by Customs official at the
Bandaranaike International Airport last week. A Pakistani national who
came from Karachchi brought in a sack of oranges in which 12 fruits
contained secret packets of Heroin weighing around 980 grams worth up to
Rs.8 million. Customs Narcotics Control Unit on suspicion searched the
passenger and found 12 oranges containing Heroin out of 72 fruits. The
smugglers had sliced opened the orange from the top and had removed the
kernel and had inserted sachets of Heroin weighing 80grams each. This
was an ingenious method of bringing in the illicit substance reported
for the first time from an airport.
In December 2010 a similar attempt was thwarted by the Customs
officials who detected a 40 foot container carrying potatoes. In the
large potato consignment the officials found some artificial potatoes
made out of plastic that has been used as small containers to carry
heroin. They found 34kilograms of heroin being carefully packed in these
fake potatoes. Six suspects were nabbed in connection with the case
which is still being heard at the Colombo High Courts. The net weight of
the pure heroin extracted from the bulk was eight kilograms according to
the Government Analyst's report.
Sri Lanka Customs has conducted five heroin detections in 2013 out of
four were done at Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake. An
Indian national was arrested in February carrying 489grams of Heroin
hidden in his Shalwar Kameez worth around Rs.1.95million. On the same
day they arrested a Sri Lankan male carrying 529grams of Heroin also
hidden in his attire worth over Rs.2.11million. In June another Sri
Lankan was arrested carrying 1.5kilograms of Heroin concealed in his
shoe sole worth around Rs.13million. And in November the Customs
arrested a Liberian national who was carrying a briefcase that contained
30 kilograms of Heroin worth over Rs.30 million. This was the largest
amount of heroin being attempted to smuggled through an airport manually
by an individual in the history.
The fifth and the only case detected outside an airport by the
Customs in 2013 happened to be the largest ever heroin haul in Sri Lanka
to date. The Customs Revenue Task Force detected a 40foot container
carrying tins of grease that contained Heroin in it. 1200 sachet packets
of heroin were found carefully concealed in the grease tins. The gravity
of the detection opened the eyes of many including the top officials and
political hierarchy when the detectives found an involvement of an
officer working at the Prime Minister Secretariat to the illicit
consignment. Amidst many claiming that Sri Lanka would be the next hub
of heroin in South Asia, thorough investigations were launched by both
the Customs and the Police Narcotics Bureau into the case.
The investigators arrested a Pakistani national named Jamal Kasif of
Karachchi and a local named Mohamed Kamil from Maligawatta who had been
named as the consignees of the 40 foot container. Once the case was
broken the local authorities sought the assistance of the International
Police to locate the consigner of the contraband. Pakistan Police
Narcotics Control Units arrested the consigner of the shipment
identified as Sardhari Khan who had claimed to have visited Colombo
prior to the arrival of the container and left back to Pakistan.
The case got twisted when the Customs official received a written
request from a senior official of the Prime Minister Secretariat to
release the shipment without much hassle. A Coordinating Secretary was
found to have made the request to release the consignment of grease on a
request by one his acquaintances. The investigations revealed that
Pakistani national Jamal Kasif had developed an acquaintance with a
local businesswoman living in Kuwait. The suspect had casually met the
woman at a restaurant in Kuwait and had posed himself to be a trader
importing goods to Sri Lanka. There he came to know that her son living
in Sri Lanka has a big connection to a government office. He then
influenced him to use the government agent to speed up the clearance
process of the consignment declared as grease. The detectives however
later found out that the government agent nor his local friend had the
least idea about the true identity of the Pakistani drug trafficker or
The biggest haul of heroin
worth Rs 2.5 b detected
The case is still being investigated to find whether any powerful and
influential people are linked to it. The Pakistani detectives who
arrested the main suspect Sardhari Khan exchanged information with the
local authorities and the suspect may be handed over to Sri Lanka to be
tried in a court in the future.
The net weight of the Heroin seized in this case was 131kg and
148grams. Whenever a bulk of heroin is captured it will be sent to
Government Analyst for purification tests to study the density or the
purity level of the contraband and to understand the percentage of the
pure heroin contained in it. According to specialists’ opinion pure
Heroin will never come to Sri Lanka. A bulk of drug that is being
smuggled into the country has only 20% of pure heroin in it. Or in a
rare instance the high quality type known as “Brown Sugar” will come
with a purity level of 50% heroin in it. The rest is crap mixed to
enhance the quantity.
According to Director Police Narcotics Bureau Kamal Silva a kilogram
of Heroin is being valued in the black market at Rs.7.5 – 8million. A
gram of heroin which was sold at Rs.2000 about ten years ago is now
being sold at Rs.8000. A sachet packet of heroin with the least quality
is being sold between Rs.500 to 1000 in the ground level. A drug user
would pay Rs.1000 to 2000 per day to purchase at least two to three
packets a day, the Director said.
According to a report compiled by the National Dangerous Drugs
Control Board the heroin related arrests within the country have notably
increased since 2009. In 2009 there have been 5431 arrests made in all
nine provinces. It rises up to 9520 in 2010 and 14, 440 in 2011. In 2012
all agencies have made 16, 809 arrests countrywide. The agencies include
of Police Narcotics Bureau, Excise Department, Sri Lanka Customs, Police
Special Task Force and divisional wise police stations.
The arrest of the Liberian national at the Bandaranaike International
Airport who tried to leave the country with 30kgs of heroin in his
handbag in last October stirred another confusion as the suspect
initially claimed himself to be a member of the foreign diplomat service
of Nigeria. The Customs handed over the case to PNB that continued the
investigations and found that the contraband has been given to him by a
businessman called Chamila Mendis of Moratuwa. The PNB arrested him and
when questioned it led to another detection in Hikkaduwa. The PNB
recovered 10kilograms of heroin along with two suspects in a boutique in
Hikkaduwa shortly after. When questioned the two suspects they were
given the drugs by a person named Wasantha Mendis who has currently fled
the country. Wasantha Mendis who is reportedly related to Chamila Mendis
of the first case is said to be living in Singapore along with another
wanted suspect identified as Vidura.
According to Police Department statistics the authorities in 2013
have seized heroin about ten times the amount they seized in 2012.
The total amount of heroin detected last year was 315kg, 597g and
660mg. In 2012 it was detected only 30Kg, 644g and 661mg. In 2013 the
Police Narcotics Bureau had detected over 296 kilograms, divisional
police stations detected over 15 kilograms, Police STF detected over 3
kilograms and the Organised Crime Detection Unit seized about 300 grams.
All these statistics are showing something which is not relieving or
comforting. Not only the quantities that are being smuggled into the
country have immensely gone up but the ways and methods being used by
the traffickers to smuggle them have taken a latest trend. Having all
coastal boundaries being secured following the end of the war the
traffickers have become daring enough to use legitimate entry/exit
points to bring in narcotics to the country. Or perhaps to smuggle them
out or to use the venue as a transit point concerning its strategical
location in the South Asia.
Yet another ingenious attempt to smuggle in Heroin was thwarted in
June 2010. A box of towels was couriered to an address on Ramanayake
Mawatha through a leading international courier agency. The airport
cargo unit on suspicion break open the box to find the towels which were
later learnt to be soaked with heroin diluted water. The Government
Analyst report stated 88grams of Morphine and 10grams of heroin in it.
According to Wikipedia Heroin (diacetylmorphine or morphine
diacetate, also known as diamorphine, and colloquially as H, smack,
horse, brown, black, tar and other names is an opioid analgesic
synthesised by C.R. Alder Wright in 1874 by adding two acetyl groups to
the molecule morphine, found in the opium poppy. It is the 3,6-diacetyl
ester of morphine. Heroin itself is an active drug, but it is also
converted into morphine in the body.
When used in medicine, it is typically used to treat severe pain,
such as that resulting from a heart attack or a severe injury. The name
“heroin” is usually only used when being discussed in its illegal form.
When it is used in a medical environment, it is referred to as