Fake snail bait seller remanded

Suspect had a past record of carrying out spurious ventures
By Damith Wickremasekara

A well dressed man turned up at a flower nursery in Boralesgamuwa, introducing himself as a sales person of a bait for snails. The lady owner of the nursery was not interested in the product and turned him away.

A few days later, visitors to the nursery, inquired from the owner whether there were chemicals to control snails which were damaging their plants. These inquiries were frequent and regular. Two weeks later, the same sales person turned up again, offering chemical bait for snails and slugs. It was in digitally printed and colourful packing. It included details of the ingredient chemicals used, and instructions on its usage. On the side of the bag was a warning saying ‘Poison’.

Poonac transported in gunny bags
The back of one of the snail bait packets
The well packeted fake snail bait

On account of the spate of inquiries for snail bait in the recent past, the nursery owner ordered 200 packets, paying Rs. 21,000. The product turned to be popular with a large number of packets being sold. However, within a few days of the sale of the snail bait, people started returning, saying that the bait was ineffective. The nursery owner stopped selling the product, and lodged a complaint with the Boralesgamuwa police.

Meanwhile, similar complaints were received by the Maharagama, Bandaragama and Mirihana police stations. The complainants included growers of exotic plants, plant nurseries and villagers, saying that the product appeared to be a fake.

“We started looking for the man. We alerted people to inform us of such a person. Our mobile patrol also went around looking for the person but without success,” Boralesgamuwa Police station OIC Inspector Ishantha Kumara Epalakotuwa told the Sunday Times.

However, on Wednesday police received a telephone call that a man had parked his vehicle close to a Buddhist temple, and was selling a chemical to control snails. Police moved in and arrested him.
On questioning, the man confessed that his product was not a snail bait, but poonac, the OIC said.
He operated his business from his van. Inside the van was a small machine where he mixed the poonac, dried it and used a machine to cut it into small cubes which were then packed.

Inside the van, police also found three gunny bags of poonac, 682 bags of the bogus snail bait, rubber stamps, empty packets, etc. The suspect, a resident of Giritale, Polonnaruwa, was also living in the van which had tinted glass, and also contained clothes hangers, a water heater and a hotplate. The man claimed that he initially sold packeted spices, which was a failure. He then switched to selling packeted flower and vegetable seeds, which also failed, police said.

He next resorted to selling a fake product to control cockroaches, made with flour, which also failed. Then for the past seven months, he had been ‘producing’ this bogus snail bait which he sold at Rs. 255 per packet.

Greater Colombo DIG I.M. Karunaratna told the Sunday Times that following the detection, police were instructed to be alert about fake products being sold by the roadside. “The public should also be alert, and inform the police of anything suspicious being sold,” he added. The suspect Indrajith Amarasinghe has been remanded till November 15.

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