Suspects freed within hours by Customs after levying paltry fine

Massive gold detection by SLN:

SLNS Ranadheera responsbile for the biggest gold detection

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two persons arrested by the Sri Lanka Navy on Wednesday at 7.30 pm along with the largest ever single gold recovery made by the ‘silent’ service have been released within hours after being handed over to the Customs Office in Jaffna, while the investigations were continuing.

The suspects described as residents of Madagal, Jaffna were taken in with 45 kilos of gold during a routine check on a fibreglass dinghy 25 nautical miles west of Madagal. The navy estimated the value of seized gold at Rs. 248.5 mn.

The detection was made by SLNS Ranadheera attached to the Northern Naval Command.

After having conducted preliminary investigations, the Northern Naval Command handed over the suspects along with the contraband, the dinghy powered by one 9.9 hp obm, one GPS Garmin 72 H and seven packets containing gold slabs and pieces in different sizes.

However, Deputy Director of Customs, Jaffna O. L. S. Ismeth, after having inquired into the latest detection made by the navy, forfeited the gold valued at Rs 246,680,500. The Customs also estimated the boat and other items at Rs. 325,000.00. The Customs said that the recovered gold weighed 44.851 kilos.

The Customs said that the suspects had been released yesterday after being fined Rs. 200,000 by the Deputy Director of Customs, Jaffna.

Asked whether two smugglers could walk free by simply paying a paltry fine compared to the value of the contraband, Customs spokesperson, Leslie Gamini told The Island that there was provision in the Customs Ordinance to release suspects. "Don’t forget, we confiscated their gold and imposed a heavy fine."

Authoritative sources told The Island that the two smugglers apprehended off Madagal had received blue coloured patrol can filled with gold near Kanni Amman Kovil, Kayts on Oct 1 and left Kayts. Two persons who came on a motor cycle had handed over the gold. The suspects identified one of them as Karan.

Under interrogation, they admitted that they were on their way to meet some Indians masquerading as Tamil Nadu fishermen for a mid-sea transfer of gold to an Indian dhow. The suspects had explained the circumstances under which they were to carry out the transfer after having contacted a person in India using a hand phone to verify the identity of the Indians.

The suspects also revealed that they had carried out a similar transaction on previous Wednesday (September 24). According to them, they had handed over 5 kilos of gold to the Indians. The smugglers had been promised money, but the person identified as Karan had told them that they would be paid only after the completion of the operation.

Navy sources said that one of the two suspects had been previously engaged in the smuggling of Kerala ganja from India. Investigations are looking for some Jaffna based persons allegedly involved in the racket.

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