STF seizes container released by RTF

Govt. MP involved in Customs racket:

by Madura Ranwala

A 40-foot container registered as CRTF-11/2016/CCR16 with the Customs Revenue Task Force (RTF) division was released in contravention of established procedures on Jan. 19, The Island learns.

It was later taken into custody by the Special Task Force (STF) at Siyabalampe, Biyagama, on the same day and handed over to the Customs. A UNP Parliamentarian representing Colombo (name withheld on legal advice) had intervened to secure the release of the container on Jan. 19 without checks, according to Customs trade unionists.

The container was full of spices, lighters, toys, perfumes and shoes, sources said, adding that the value of the goods had not been estimated until last evening.

Representatives of Customs trade unions told The Island last night that they wanted the investigations to be handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) as some of the important documents pertaining to the container had been altered to protect the officers involved in the racket.

Customs Preventive Division, Deputy Director Prakrama Basnayake, contacted for comment, said investigations were underway.

Top trade unionists said that the customs RTF should be dissolved or corrupt officers should be removed from that division for releasing containers fraudulently. They said such malpractices cost the Treasury billions of rupees a year.

They alleged that the RTF Director and the Director of Central Investigations Bureau (CIB) should be held answerable for the release of the container on Jan. 19.

The importer had bribed several customs officers besides using his political connections to have the container released through the amber channel, whereas it should have gone through the red channel, Customs trade unionists said.

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