The largest single detection of illicit cigarette consignment in history estimated to be over Rs.355 million in value was seized by the Customs Post Clearance and Audit Division on January 9, 2015, the day following the Presidential Elections.
The contraband had arrived in the country from Dubai on January 9, the day following the Presidential Elections was held.
The consignment had arrived in a 40-foot container declared as chest freezers.
The container was opened and displayed to the media at the Customs unit at Grayline II Container Terminal at Grandpass this morning.
Customs Spokesman Director Leslie Gamini said that it was the first time in the history that an illicit cigarette consignment packed in a 40-foot container was detected by the Customs.
Previously two 20-foot containers had been seized in single detection few years ago, which held the record of the highest number of sticks, he said.
Customs sleuths found 10, 770, 000 (Ten million seven hundred and seventy thousand) sticks of cigarettes belonging to a brand called Royal, manufactured in Dubai. The sticks were neatly packed in 53, 850 cartons.
The street value of the consignment had been estimated at Rs. 355, 410, 000 (Three hundred and fifty five million four hundred and ten thousand) and the evaded payment of taxes to the government was at Rs.300 million, he said.
The consignment had been sent to a person addressed in Nugegoda which was later found to be false. A private shipping agent had couriered the container and out of suspicion the Customs PCAD officials held it until a consignee would turn up.
A senior Customs official disclosed that it is highly suspicious that the cigarette consignment arrived on the day following the Presidential Election and had not been claimed by any for almost 10 months may indicate the incapability of certain influential persons with the unexpected transfer of power.
Further investigations are being carried out by Customs Superintendent Prabath Rathnayake, Deputy Superintendents Samantha Rajapakse, Chula Wijesundera, N S Kumanayake, Anil Jayakody, Hasantha Guruge, Nishantha Jayasinghe and W L C Thilakasiri on the instructions of Deputy Director of Customs PCAD C Perinpanayagam and Kithsiri Fernando.
The contraband will be confiscated and destroyed in due course, the sources said. (Chaturanga Pradeep and Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana)