Probe on PSD men’s spending spree at BIA

By Chris Kamalendran

Customs authorities have ordered an investigation into allegations that members of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) purchased goods from the duty free shops at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) exceeding their duty free allowance on return to Sri Lanka following the recent visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to London.

Customs Director General Ms. Sudharma Karunaratne told the Sunday Times that the investigation had been launched following a report filed by her department officials that the PSD personnel had bought goods exceeding the duty-free allowance of US $ 200 per person.

Sri Lankan passport holders returning from overseas after less than a week’s stay are entitled to purchase goods from the duty free shops up to US $ 200 per person.

However, duty free shopkeepers had complained to Customs officials that the PSD personnel allegedly forced them to sell electronic items and liquor beyond their entitlement. Accordingly a report had been filed by Customs Assistant Director Lalitha Weerasinghe.

The complaint had also been referred to Treasury Secretary P.B.Jayasundera. Speaking on the grounds of anonymity, duty free shopkeepers said that exceeding the duty free allowance amounts to a violation of exchange control regulations and consequently they would be held responsible for any violation.

“We would have to pay taxes to the Government in the case of a person exceeding his duty free allowance,” one shopkeeper pointed out.

Meanwhile pro-government supporters allegedly assaulted two Hotel Corporation taxi counter staff members this week after they protested about an assault carried out by pro-government supporters on Nawa SamaSamaja Party leader Wickramabahu Karunaratne.

Dr. Karunaratne was allegedly manhandled at the BIA early this week when he was returning from London. Government members accused him of organizing protests against the President during his visit there.

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