It has been confirmed that heroin and Kerala ganja were being smuggled from the country via established trade routes also known as green channels through local ports to Europe with cocaine also high on the list.
Kerala ganja is cannabis sativa coming from Kerala in South India.
Green channels can also be termed as safe ports. According to information received from local authorities such as the Sri Lanka Customs and the Presidential Task Force on drug prevention, certain domestic ports are considered safe for smuggling the illegal drugs as the same ports are used for the export of tea. Customs officials said that illicit drugs such as heroin and Kerala ganja were being smuggled out through the channels that are used to export tea, as tea exportation does not undergo stringent checking procedures.
This is due to the fact that the Customs does not possess the necessary equipment required for the purpose of the detection of these substances which are being sent along with the tea, Deputy Director of the Customs, Parakrama Basnayake said.
Accordingly, the substance is concealed in containers of sugar originating from Brazil with the intention of smuggling it to countries such as Portugal.
Basnayake said that those who are involved in the racket could not get their consignments released due to certain restrictions, legal and regulatory. The release of consignments also depends on factors such as the availability of shipping lines during a certain period for the purpose of transferring the shipment from one vessel to another. Another contributory factor is the decision of the indent agent (buying agent) or the direct agent in this regard and the amount of risk involved is ultimately taken by the said agent. For example, in certain cases situations could arise where cargo must be cleared within 24 hours.
The consignees are thus unable to get their consignments released from the relevant port as the process requires that the ship be berthed in the relevant harbour for a minimum of two days.
“What we detect are those consignments which come to Sri Lanka as a result of them not being released at the last port of call as they could not be released due to certain reasons including stipulations,” he said.
Therefore, as far as the detection of cocaine is concerned, the authorities are yet to conclusively ascertain and establish whether in fact the country is indeed being used as a transit point to re-export the white powder.
When queried as to whether local drug mules smuggle cocaine by ingesting balloons containing the contraband stimulant or concealing the drug on their person or luggage, were also being used for the process of smuggling out, Director of the Force Dr. Samantha Kumara Kithalawaarachchi agreed that such a process could be a distinct probability.
He acknowledged that the serious issue of the smuggling out of drugs would involve all stakeholder authorities including law enforcement agencies having to consider the matter anew and think afresh.