An estimated 350 heroin dealers are operating in the city of Colombo, with about 45 of them dealing in wholesale transactions involving millions of rupees, National Dangerous Drug Control Board (NDDCB) detectives said yesterday.
They said their investigations had revealed that 10 to 15 drug lords were leading the mafia-style operation with at least 25 kilograms of heroin being sold in every transaction, while the other 30 traded between one and two kilograms in each transaction.
Apart from these drug kings, another 300 operators were actively involved in the heroin market trading in small quantities of between 50 and 100 grams, they said.
In addition there were an undisclosed number, but believed to be in the thousands dealing in the retail market throughout the city and its suburbs, the detectives added.
According to investigations, about 90 per cent of the heroin entering the local market came from Pakistan and South India – with the bulk being smuggled in by boat across the Palk Strait.
A kilogram of heroin sells on the street between Rs. 4.5 million and six million, depending on the grade.
The detectives identified the main landing points for the boats bringing in the heroin as Chilaw and Negombo on the western coast and Mannar further up north.
They said the heroin was also reaching areas such as Hikkaduwa, Trincomalee, Talaimannar, Marawila Beruwala, Kalmunai, Akkaraipattu, Thoduwava, Batticaloa, Arugam Bay and Panadura.
They said the heroin smugglers were known to tape the heroin to the bottom of the boat. If they were confronted by law enforcement officers, they would cut the tape and let the heroin sink to the bottom of the sea. Later they would send divers to fetch the packages of heroin when all is clear.
The detectives said they also had evidence that refugees returning from Tamil Nadu were also being used as couriers to smuggle in the heroin for a large fee.
The bulk of the smugglers using the sea route between Sri Lanka and India have been identified to be wealthy boat owners from Chilaw and Negombo.