On-going battle between Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Customs officers took a new turn yesterday with Special Operations Unit (SOU) under the purview of minister busting a cocaine consignment of 91 kilos and 300 grams with a street value of over Rs. 2 billion.
Sleuths led by Wing Commander Ravi Jayasinghe, officer in charge of the SOU had been monitoring consignments that leave Orugodawatte cargo clearance yard inspected a sugar container brought down from Brazil by an importer by the name of AMRO Sugar and detected the contraband, Finance Ministry Media Secretary, Sisira Wijesinghe told.
President Maithripala Sirisena and Finance Minister Karunanayake visited the Orugodawatte Container Yard of the Customs Department and inspected the contraband smuggled in three black bags weighing 50 kilos each.
It was the biggest ever amount of cocaine detected in Sri Lanka, Wijesinghe said.
Wijesinghe said yesterday’s raid had been conducted on information received from a source and systematic monitoring of custom officials’ conduct and the raid was carried out by STF and narcotics officials attached to the SOU.
President Sirisena at the site instructed his officials to conduct several investigations into the incident and asked for a report, President’s Media Unit said.
The President vowed to continue with anti-narcotic campaign of his government and thanked Minister Karunanayake and his officials for the
STF Commandant DIG Ranjith Perera and Deputy Director of Customs L. Weerasinghe also visited the scene with the President.
Meanwhile, a senior union official said on condition of anonymity that the raid had been carried out without following the normal procedure. It had taken place even before the consignment had been scanned.
Customs officials would have made the detection anyway, he said.
Asked to comment on whether the SOU of the finance ministry had pre-empted their own action owing to a conflict between the minister and customs officials, he said that he did not have full details pertaining to the raid but his union would make a statement later.
He said the union would ask for a special investigation from the CID into the incident.