By Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana
Two couples arriving from Dubai were arrested by Customs officials at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) last morning when they attempted to smuggle in a large stock of foreign cigarettes worth more than Rs.5.3 million.
Customs officials stationed at the BIA Arrival Terminal on suspicion checked the couples only to find their check-in and cabin baggage filled with cartons of imported cigarettes.
Commenting on this, Customs Spokesman and Additional Director-General Sunil Jayaratne told Daily Mirror the two couples in their mid-twenties had arrived at 8:30 a.m. on Emirates flight EK650 and that one of the couples accompanied its two-year-old daughter.
The couples have attempted to leave the airport through the ‘nothing to declare’ green channel when the officials intercepted them on suspicion. Each member had been carrying a large check-in baggage with a cabin baggage and the contraband packed in all eight bags belonging to them.
The sleuths found two brands of foreign cigarettes including Dubai-made ‘Gold Leaf’ and another called ‘Platinum’ from Switzerland. All 483 cartons contained 96,600 sticks of cigarettes which has an approximate black market value of Rs.5,313,000.
Deputy Director of the Customs Arrival Terminal K.H.P. Kumarasinghe told Daily Mirror the couples, according to their passports, were found to have been constantly travelling overseas on business purpose. He said the two couples were from Chilaw and Wennappuwa.
They had travelled to Dubai, Singapore, India and Thailand in the recent past and the officials suspect whether they had been involved in a syndicate as illicit tobacco carriers.
Customs Superintendent Senaka Arawpol and Assistant Superintendents H.U. Perera, M.P.W. Perera, W. Mihindu Kulasooriya and Aruna Samarasinghe are conducting investigations on the instructions of Additional Director-General Saman Ranawana, Customs Director at BIA M.A. Karunaratne and Deputy Directors K.H.P. Kumarasinghe and R. Rushanthan.
The couples have been detained for further investigations and until the Customs inquiry concludes. The contraband will be forfeited following the probe.