July 21, 2017 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s sugar importers have cleared Lanka Sathosa and Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) from links to the huge cocaine haul detected on Wednesday, and the Minister of Industry and Commerce has urgently called for a report on the incident.
“There is speculation that the cocaine was inserted to the container while transported locally but that is not so,” said Chairman of Lanka Sathosa TMKB Tennakoon, speaking at a press briefing.
“Yesterday July 19 around 5pm a cocaine haul of more than 100 Kg has been detected by employees of Lanka Sathosa in a container sent to CWE (Sathosa). The detection was made in a container on a private container carrier vehicle that arrived at the warehouse of CWE (Sathosa) Rathmalana Economic Centre,” he said.
The CWE called tenders for sugar supplies and received bids from five suppliers. Ranjitha Pulses Splitting & Processing Industry Ltd qualified with the lowest price, and CWE awarded them the tender for 500 MT of sugar, valued around at 50 million rupees.
Despite speculation that the cocaine was inserted in to the container while transported locally, it was sealed by customs officers after inspection at Orugodawatta Container Terminal Yard.
“This shows that the cocaine was not placed in local transit but arrived previously and had escaped detection at Orugodawatta Terminal.”
A sugar importer and Media Secretary of Sri Lanka Sugar Importers Association Hemaka Fernando said Brazilian sugar is low priced but there is a high risk attached due to the drug mafia operating in the Port of Santos.
“Mafia loads a duplicate container (similar to sugar container) with cocaine and switch the containers at another transit port later. Therefore in 2016 we stopped importing sugar from Brazil,” Fernando said.
“The question then is why containers from Brazil are still arriving here. The reason is that the sugar orders that our members placed with Brazil prior to stoppage were not cancelled, and 800 such containers were on their way. Those stocks are still arriving.”
“This particular container was not imported by supplier to CWE Ranjitha Pulses Splitting & Processing Industry but landed in Colombo port in 2016 November and was one of those 800 containers landed. This was imported by WDR Samarakoon Company in Sri Lanka.”
After issues between Samarakoon Company and the foreign supplier, Samarakoon Company sold the container to a local buyer Ranjitha Pulses.
“The real issue is not whether Samarakoon Company or Ranjitha Pulses being guilty-the issues is despite announcing that we will not import sugar from Brazil in 2016, the pressure of containers continuously arriving from Brazil to Colombo,” Fernando said.
“With responsibility, I can therefore clearly say that Lanka Sathosa is in no way involved in this. Remember, independent labour gangs, not connected to Lanka Sathosa, too were involved in unloading and we do not know what they were upto.”
Seventy five to eighty similar sugar containers from Brazil are now lying at Colombo Port waiting to be cleared.