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Sunday, 16 February 2014





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Government Gazette

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 inflow.

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 his consignment.

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 diamorphine.

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