Police Commandos recover Rs. 48mn worth contraband
The elite STF now engaged in an intensified campaign against organised crime on Monday seized (Dec 14) 2,430,000 Benson and Hedges cigarettes during an operation conducted in the Sapugaskanda police area.
An STF spokesman told The Island that commandos had lured the gang by offering to buy the consignment estimated to be worth about Rs. 48 million. According to him, this was the largest ever detection made by law enforcement authorities outside the Colombo harbour or the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The police arrested three persons along with the contraband. The spokesman said that commandos (plainclothesmen) had swooped down on the gang following information gathered by the STF intelligence. Responding to our queries, a senior police official involved in operations directed at the underworld told The Island that the government annually lost tax revenue to the tune of millions due to illegal import of cigarettes.
According to him, the commandos had so far made three major detections in the Western Province this year. On September 16, the STF recovered about 500,000 cigarettes worth about Rs. 8 million at Pahala Imbulgoda. This was followed by the detection of 340,000 cigarettes worth about Rs 6,120,000 during a raid on a house at Thelagapatha road, Wattala.
Well informed sources told The Island that gangs involved in lucrative smuggling operations had the support of corrupt officials to bring in contraband.
In keeping with the UPFA’s much talked about Mathata Thitha policy, the law enforcement authorities are going all out against clandestine cigarette imports and illicit liquor trade. The government recently went to the extent of supervising destruction of illegally imported cigarettes to ensure that there would not be any attempts to pilfer seized stocks. Sources said that stepped up operations were a must to ensure the tobacco industry brought in much needed revenue to government coffers.
Ongoing operations are conducted by ASP Sisira Kumara under the supervision of SP Varuna Jayawardena on the directions of STF Commandant DIG K. M. L. Sarathchandra.