Navy’s mid-sea drug bust could be worth Rs 6bn

The narcotics seized off the seas of Galle last weekend by the Sri Lanka Navy could be worth up to Rs 6,000 million, Navy Spokesman Lt Commander Isuru Sooriyabandara told EconomyNext.

The Navy claimed yesterday to have seized 400kg of a substance believed to be heroin (in 397 packets) and 100kg of a substance believed to be ICE (in 100 packets) in the February 29 bust, making it the largest haul of narcotics seized in an operation at sea.

According to the Navy, the haul was seized from a sophisticated drug trafficking network managed in a foreign country and administered through satellite telephone conversations.

Earlier in a media statement, the Navy stated that the operation was conducted following intelligence shared by the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) which had also assisted the Navy with its decoys.

The Navy said it had deployed the offshore patrol vessels Samudura and Sindurala which were at sea for over a month on this mission.

Two Sri Lankan fishing vessels with over 75kg of suspected heroin and 66 kilograms of suspected ICE were intercepted in the southern seas along with four suspects. However, Sooriyabndara said that these weights could differ as they are only estimates at present.

Another vessel without a flag was seized, first for suspiciously remaining in the high seas, which later turned out to be allegedly supplying narcotics to Sri Lankan vessels at sea under the guise of fishing vessels.

When this “ghost” vessel was inspected, 329 packages of suspected heroin and another 50 packets believed to be ICE were found.

Since this mission was conducted about 600 nautical miles (1,111km) away from Sri Lankan shores in international waters, said Sooriyabandara, and the vessels in question were not registered under any state, the Sri Lanka Navy had the legal authority to seize them.

The Navy said it was able to extend its operations up to the equator in a bid to curb drug trafficking and managed to box in Sri Lankan multi-day fishing vessels and dinghies which had come to obtain narcotics. Drug suppliers who were disguised as Sri Lankan fishermen were also taken into custody.

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Meanwhile, drug peddlers who had arrived at the beach area of Kudawella in Dikwella, Matara, to retrieve narcotics were also taken into the custody of the PNB as part of a land operation.

Investigations are still underway and the seized vessels have yet to be escorted to the harbour. The Navy said it had seized a total of 762.253kg of heroin, 3653.427kg of Kerala cannabis and 3.010kg of ICE in the year 2019.

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