The police Special Task Force (STF) believe key underworld figures had links to the recently uncovered imported cigarette-smuggling racket which has deprived the state of millions of rupees in revenue.
Investigations revealed imported cigarettes smuggled into the country from countries such as Dubai, India and China were part of an organized crime network in connivance with certain key underworld figures in the country.
A senior officer of the STF who spoke to the Sunday Times said government had been losing millions of rupees from tax on cigarettes due to the illegal sale of imported cigarettes which were sold cheap.
“Cigarette smugglers make purchases in bulk and earn large profits. This directly affected government revenue which comes via tobacco,” he said.
On December 14, the intelligence unit of the police Special Task Force (STF) made a detection of smuggled cigarettes valued at Rs. 43 million outside the Colombo port. This is said to be the largest detection ever made outside the port.
Three persons --Chinthaka Priyalal Rajapaksa, Tuan Rizmi Dole and Senaji Parakrama-- were arrested in connection with the smuggling 2.4 million ‘Benson & Hedges’ cigarettes in a 20-foot container which was found at Makola, Kelaniya.
Those arrested were later handed over to the Sapugaskanda police for investigation.
The suspects are said to have confessed they had smuggled the contraband through the port paying customs duty for a particular chemical.
On September 16 the STF arrested a person in Weliweriya who had smuggled ‘Gold Seal’ cigarettes valued at Rs. 8 million into the country; while on December 07, two persons from Wattala were arrested for smuggling in ‘Gold Seal’ cigarettes valued at Rs. 6 million.