AG asks IGP to expedite probe Dappula to address drug busters on Friday
Posted on July 1st, 2020

By Shamindra Ferdinando and Saman Gamage

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The Office of Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC, yesterday (1), confirmed an unprecedented meeting between the AG and Acting IGP C. D. Wickremaratne at the former’s Office following a revelation that some Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) officers were dealing in heroin.

State Counsel and Coordinating Officer to the AG Nishara Jayaratne said that having inquired into the issue at hand, instructions had been issued to expedite investigations.

The State Counsel was responding to The Island query whether the AG raised the matter with the Acting IGP in the presence of Defence Secretary retired Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne. The State Counsel declined to reveal how the AG had received information at issue.

Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) retired Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis was present at the meeting where a junior law enforcement officer handling the high profile inquiry was invited to brief the top brass.

Responding to The Island query, the Defence Secretary said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had been briefed on the situation.

Close on the heels of the AG’s intervention, the Acting IGP has requested the National Police Commission’s (NPC) approval for the immediate transfer of the senior officer in charge of the PNB DIG Sanjeewa Medawatte and its Director SP Manjula Senarath pending investigations.

Secretary to the NPC Nishantha Weerasinghe yesterday told The Island that the Acting IGP had informed the NPC of the move last Saturday (25) pending their approval. Weerasinghe said that DIG G. K. J. Aponso and SSP Sujith Wedamulla had succeeded Medawatte and Senarath, respectively. Responding to another query, Weerasinghe underscored the need for a thorough investigation.

The State Counsel said that the AG would address the officers of the PNB, on Friday (3) morning, at the DIG Colombo Range (Conference Hall) Olcott Mawatha, Colombo 1 as part the continuing anti-crime drive. The AG addressed Prisons Department officers on June 19 at the Welikada remand prison where he demanded eradication of corruption among them or face the consequences.

Some officers of the PNB dealing in heroin came to light following the arrest of a suspect by the Minuwangoda police on June 12. The drug racket involving some PNB officers was exposed by accident when one of its Sub Inspectors through illegal means secured access to the suspect held at the Minuwangoda police on the pretext of questioning him. Thereafter, the officer left the police station placing a note that the 47-year-old suspect was yet to be produced before a Magistrate 48 hours after the arrest.

During the illegal meeting between the Sub Inspector and the suspect, who had been arrested along with 5 grammes of heroin in a luxury vehicle, the suspect openly inquired from the law enforcement officer whether he was the person who had delivered a stock of heroin to him.

Five days after the suspect’s arrest, the police recovered four shotgun cartridges secreted in a car parked at his garden. On June 23, the police found a repeater shot gun hidden in an abandoned house at Boragodawatte also in the Minuwangoda police area.

The police identified the suspect as the younger brother of a Coordinating Secretary to Industrial Export, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Aviation Minister Prasanna Ranatunga. A spokesperson for the Minister’s Office told The Island that the arrest had been made following Minister Ranatunga’s request to the Acting IGP to take action to bust a heroin distribution network following complaints received from Yatiyana villagers.

Police said that the enormity of the PNB-underworld operation attracted attention of higher authorities as investigations revealed a bank account maintained by the suspect that recorded transactions between Rs 10 mn to 40 mn on a monthly basis.

A PNB team led by the Chief Inspector who had the opportunity to brief the top brass later, questioned the suspect held under Detention Orders at the Minuwangoda police. Well informed sources said that the recovery of the suspect’s hand phone at the police station facilitated the investigation. There had been video footage of a kilo of heroin being packeted and when the suspect was questioned about the distribution network, he revealed one distributor living at Kurana, Katunayake in the Negombo police area.

Acting on information provided by the suspect, the PNB raided Kurana residence on the night of June 15 and found 6 kg and 137 g of heroin.

However, the Sub Inspector who secured access to the suspect through illegal means during the unofficial interrogation asked the suspect what he had done with 90 kilos of heroin received recently. The unexpected query prompted the suspect to tell the officer that the latter was the one who had handed over the contraband to him.

Further questioning established the six kilos recovered from Kurana had been part of the 90 kilos of heroin sold by the group of rogue PNB officers to the underworld. The handing over of the stock to the person in the custody of Minuwangoda police by the Sub Inspector had been taken place on a coconut estate in the Minuwangoda police area.

The Sub Inspector was among four PNB personnel taken into custody. Suspects taken into custody comprised one Sub Inspector, two Sergeants and one police constable. In addition to them, a brother-in-law of the Sergeant was also taken into custody. The police are looking for a Chief Inspector allegedly involved in the operation, but has gone missing.

Subsequently, the suspect in the custody of the Minuwangoda police revealed that the remaining stock of heroin had been handed over to his brother-in-law though the PNB couldn’t find it as by the time the team reached the suspect’s home; it had been shifted. Swift examination of security camera system at that house led to the identification of a vehicle taken from a rent-a-car agency used to move the remaining stock. Sources said that the vehicle had been rented by the Sub Inspector who obtained access to the suspect held at the Minuwangoda police, at a monthly fee of Rs. 100,000.

During the recent meeting chaired by the AG, it was revealed that the rogue PNB officers sold 90 kilos of heroin to the underworld from a stock of 250 kilos of undeclared heroin in the PNB’s custody. The remaining 160 kilos of raw heroin had been mixed with 65 kilos of some other substance, packeted at the PNB premises and then moved to a house at Mabole, Wattala where highly publicised detection was subsequently made at the height of the covid-19 crisis. The police arrested four persons including two working for underworld kingpin Kosgoda Tharaka.

Speculation is rife that Kosgoda Tharaka’s gang had been lured by the PNB by using another major heroin dealer. Sources asserted that it could be part of continuing battles for control of the narcotics trade. Recently, the elite Special Task Force (STF) commandos seized 11 T-56 assault rifles and one T 81 weapon belonging to Kosgoda Tharaka’s gang hidden inside a multi-storeyed furniture store at Pitipana, Homagama.

Following the operation at Mabole, Wattala, the then head of the PNB DIG Medawatta and incumbent Police Spokesman SSP attorney-at-law Jaliya Senaratne addressed the media. They said the stocks of heroin had been transported in the guise of essential items during curfew.

Authoritative sources told The Island that a comprehensive investigation, a fresh set of guidelines and greater monitoring of such units were required to bring the situation under control and restore public trust.

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