Beedi leaves racketeer in Court today
Posted on February 19th, 2019

METHMALIE DISSANAYAKE Courtesy Ceylon Today

The suspect who was allegedly the mastermind behind the release of a 12-ton beedi leaves container, from the Customs last December, via forged documents, without paying the Duty, has been summoned to appear before the Aluthkade Magistrate’s Court today (17).

According to Customs sources, the suspect, named Nurdin Fazal Ahmed, had used forged documents,claiming that the container had women’s garments imported from Bangladesh, to release it without paying the Duty. Because of this incident the country lost a Customs Duty to the tune of Rs 40 million.

After getting known about this gimmick, the Customs officers chased the container and apprehended it in Wattala on 03 December 2018 along with 2 individuals. They were released after the completion of investigations as the Customs has no legal authority to hold such persons further, after an investigation.  But, another three suspects, who allegedly had connections with the incident, are currently in remand custody.

Ahmed, the alleged mastermind behind the gimmick, was arrested by the Customs on 15 February near the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID). He is having high political connections.Prior to the arrest, he had been summoned for questioning for more than a month on several occasions, but had ignored them.

The sources said that if they could not finish questioning a suspect within 24 hours, that person should be further remanded. But after producing him before the Aluthkade Magistrate Court on 16 February, he was ordered to be released on a surety bail of Rs 10 million.

Section 127 C of the Customs Ordinance clearly states that ‘no person suspected or accused of an offense under this Ordinance in respect of any goods, the value of which exceeds one million rupees, shall be released on bail except by the High Court, in exceptional circumstances.” That means a Magistrate Court has no power to release such a person on bail. That power lies with the High Court,” a Customs officer, who wished to be anonymous noted.

The Officer further said that the same suspect is believed to be having direct connections with the pepper re-export racket, hiding under tariff reliefs,coming under the free trade agreements. In this racket these people import pepper from Vietnam and re-export it to India using forged documents that the pepper stock was produced Sri Lanka,” he noted.

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