Sri Lanka Customs is willing to provide the seized stocks of Ethanol imported into the country through illegal channels, for the local production of disinfectants to be used during the COVID - 19 pandemic, instead of using them to manufacture liquor, its chief said.
Customs Director General Rtd. Maj. Gen. Vijitha Ravipriya said, the smuggled stocks of Ethanol seized by them, would be provided to state health authorities for the production of disinfectants used to combat the COVID - 19 virus, as there is a significant shortage of such chemical raw materials at present.
The top official addressing the media at an event organised at the Customs Central Cargo Examination Directorate at Grayline II Yard in Thotalanga to display another seized stock of over 15,000 litres of Ethanol imported from China said yesterday, the practice was to sell the seized chemicals only to licensed liquor manufacturers through a public auction, in order to generate revenue for the state.
“However, from this point onwards we are considering to release these seized stocks and ones that come in the future for the production of disinfectants, as there is a significant shortage in such material. Ethanol is a chief component in alcohol-based virus disinfectants and sanitizers,” DG Ravipriya said.
The government banned the importation of Ethanol for the local liquor industry since January this year on the orders of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to strengthen the local sugar cultivator.
“We have already received requests from the Ministry of Health to supply excess stocks of Ethanol we seize for the said purpose and are willing to provide them,” the Customs Chief said.
Risk Management Unit (RMU) of the Customs Central Intelligence Directorate on suspicion searched a 20-foot container which arrived at the Colombo Port on May 25, 2019. The consignment had been fraudulently declared as Nylon 6 dipped tyre cord fabric meant for a renowned company.
Customs Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Directorate Sudath J. de Silva said, though the port of loading has been declared as Shanghai, China, the actual port of origin of the Ethanol consignment is suspected to be a Southeast Asian one.
The container consisted of 80 barrels, each containing 190 liters of Ethanol worth of Rs.2 million and the total sum of evaded tax revenue was Rs.18 million. “Usually, a Customs Import Tax (CID) with Vat and NBT up to Rs.1,000 is imposed on a litre of Ethanol, which could be used to produce two to three 750ml bottles of liquor, he said.
Customs RMU team comprising Superintendents S. M. M. K. Siriwardena and J. N. Mirihagalla with Deputy Superintendents N. D. Hettiarachchi and A. L. D. K. Gunawardena with Assistant Superintendents A. K. K. Thushara, U. G. I. N. Bandara, W. G. C. S. Amarasinghe and J. M. P. Lakshan are conducting inquiries on the instructions of Director Central Intelligence Directorate M. R. Ranaraja and DC M. S. J. De Silva.
Three suspects from Kandy, including the businessman behind the smuggled contraband who was arrested last year, had been produced in courts in January 2020 and ordered to be remanded. (Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana)