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Soldier in uniform, deserter arrested with 45 kilos of heroin

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Probe on Army vehicles being used to move narcotics

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva has ordered a thorough investigation after the police Wednesday (24) night arrested two heroin couriers-––a serving soldier and a military deserter ––in the Horana police area.

Gen. Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), has assured the police of their full cooperation, in addition to an internal probe into the high profile arrest of the soldier attached to Dambulla Army camp and a person who deserted the Army two months ago. The deserter was identified as a Lance Corporal.

Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana and Military spokesman Brig. Nilantha Premaratne yesterday (25) briefed the media at police headquarters of the operation conducted by the Panadura based Anti-Vice Strike Force following information received from the public.

The raiding party detained the two suspects along with a vehicle carrying 45 kgs and 376 grammes of heroin. Under interrogation, the suspects have revealed they received the contraband near Imaduwa entry point to the Southern Expressway and exited at Gelanigama. The police made the Horana detection close on the heels of the recovery of 200 grammes of heroin near the Angunakolapelessa entry/exit point.

DIG Rohana said that they believe the heroin was being taken to Tissamaharama from Weligama. “We are probing the possibility of Weligama being the centre of a major drug distribution cartel,” DIG Rohana said.

Previously no Lankan soldiers had been arrested with such a large consignment of heroin.

The media was told how the vehicle rented by the Army for its use ended up being used to transport drugs. At the time of the arrest the solder, a resident of Polonnaruwa who was the driver of the vehicle had been in uniform, the spokesmen said, alleging the arrested persons worked for two major heroin distributors based in Dubai or some other country. The deserter was in civilian clothes.

They identified one of the operators as Ruwan Chintaka of Midigama, Weligama. In addition to those drug dealers out of the country, the media was told of the alleged involvement of a 24-year-old person wanted in connection with a killing, in the Horana drug recovery.

DIG Rohana alleged that Chintaka was a close associate of notorious criminal Angoda Lokka whose death in India due to poisoning was confirmed by the Indian police recently.

The police spokesman said that new heroin dealers had emerged in the wake of the arrest of 14 major distributors and the recovery of 1,610 kgs of heroin during 2020.

The police would seek permission from the court to detain the suspects for seven days. They were to be produced in the Horana Magistrate’s court, the DIG said.

He said that Sri Lanka had obtained Interpol ‘Red Notice’ on 24 persons, mostly drug dealers. One of them died recently.

Wednesday’s arrest of soldiers involved in the heroin trade took place amidst the ongoing investigations into some members of the elite Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) dealing in narcotics. Over a dozen of its personnel are in remand pending investigations.

During yesterday’s briefing DIG Rohana asserted that the arrested soldier and the deserter had been middlemen and investigations were underway to ascertain their involvement.



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SJB: Excise, FM officials all out to pocket Rs 1 bn

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By Saman Indrajith

Matara District SJB MP Buddhika Pathirana yesterday told Parliament that the Finance Ministry and Excise Department officials had misled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal in order to obtain billion rupees, fraudulently.

The officials had got a contract for printing stickers or barcodes to be displayed on bottles of liquor awarded to an Indian company.

“The project would result in one-billion-rupee loss to the government coffers annually,” the MP said, adding that the money being taken from the public purse would end up in the pockets of corrupt officials.

Pathirana said that the Excise Department had commenced a project to paste stickers on bottles of liquor to differentiate them from the fake and counterfeit bottles in the market.

“As per this project’s requirements, 32 million stickers would be needed per month. The stickers are to be purchased from Madras Security Printers company of India. This method was proposed in 2016 but it failed and the officials thereafter decided to introduce a barcode system.

“The cost of a sticker at 25 cents and the new barcode system will cost of two rupees a piece. This is a dubious deal. It seems that the Finance Ministry officials and the Excise Department heads have ganged up to give the contract to the Indian company and get commissions. There are many unanswered questions. First, the contract of printing the barcode too has been given to the MSP company, which could not secure the first contract. I want to know whether the proper procurement process has been followed. The second question is whether the barcodes would be up to the standards listed in the tender. Third question is who had selected the MSP company which is black-listed in India after being found guilty of frauds with Indian liquor companies in providing stickers to them. MSP has been blacklisted in many other countries. The company has been banned in Sudan and Liberia for supplying the stickers to private companies. The last question is whether this fraud is being committed with the knowledge of ministers of this government.”

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Reserves fall to lowest since 2009, rupee strengthening to be short-lived: report

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by Sanath Nanayakkare

Sri Lanka’s Foreign reserves had dropped to USD 4.1bn in March 2021, the lowest since August 2009, on the back of over US$ 4bn outstanding debt payment during April-December 2021 period, a report issued by First Capital Research yesterday said.

According to the report, rupee appreciation is likely to be short-lived considering Sri Lanka’s depleting foreign reserve position, high foreign currency debt repayment requirement and limited funding sources available in the market are expected to further increase depreciation pressure on the currency during 2Q and 3Q.

“We maintain our exchange rate target for 1H2021 at Rs. 196-202 with 2021 year-end target at Rs. 205-215 as mentioned in our ‘Investment Strategy 2021 – January 2021,” the report recalls.

“Sri Lankan rupee appreciated 5% against the US dollar over the last 2 market days reversing the continuous accelerated depreciation witnessed in January-April 2021. On 12th April, Sri Lankan rupee recorded a historical low of Rs. 201:1 US$. Ministry of Finance (MoF) reported on the same day that the government of Sri Lanka entered into a loan agreement with the China Development Bank (CDB) for US$ 500mn and MoF expected the funds to be disbursed during the same week. Following the announcement, the market registered a steep appreciation with mid-rate recording at Rs. 190.9 on April 19,” it says.

The total foreign debt repayment (capital and interest) for 2021 is US$ 6 bn, according to the report.

Meanwhile FC Research believes that the temporary appreciation in USD-LKR, may adversely impact earnings of export companies such as Hayleys, Haycarb, Dipped Products, MGT Knitting Mills, Teejay Lanka, Expolanka Holdings etc. in the short term.

“However, considering the potential future currency pressure, we expect an overall depreciation of approximately 12% for the rupee providing a significant gain for companies with foreign currency revenue”, FC research predicts.

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Govt. asks Opposition not to propagate lies

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By Saman Indrajith

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday accused the Opposition MPs of abusing parliamentary privileges to mislead the public by propagating lies about the Easter Sunday terror attacks. 

Addressing Parliament, Minister Fernando said: “The Opposition MPs level wild allegations in the House knowing that they have the cover of parliamentary privilege. If they have anything substantial or any knowledge of the perpetrators of the Easter attacks still not in custody they can go to the CID and lodge complaints so that such complaints could be investigated.”  

Fernando said so after SJB Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara had told the House that he possessed evidence of those who carried out the Easter Sunday terror attacks.

Nanayakkara also said that the facts that he had were not in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage.

“You are making various statements regarding the Easter Sunday terror attacks in the Chamber without any proof because you know that you have Parliamentary privilege. You even quoted some statements which are not included in the PCoI report. How did you obtain such information? Why didn’t you complain about this to the CID in the first place? Your action is aimed at misleading the public,” the Minister said. 

Minister Fernando said that the Opposition should stop insulting Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith by misinterpreting the latter’s statements. 

“When you are in the Government you never said that this is a Buddhist country. Now you are insulting the Cardinal too. You should not do that,” the Minister said. 

“The former Government should be responsible for the terror attack. Now we are trying to punish those who are responsible for it. We will take action against everyone who is responsible. You should support us, not try to obstruct the on-going investigations,” Minister Fernando said.

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