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Main man behind Sri Lanka -Malaysia child smuggling syndicate arrested at BIA

25 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

By Kurulu Koojana Kariyakarawana   

The chief local facilitator behind the organised child smuggling syndicate between Sri Lanka and Malaysia, which rocked the country with 17 child smuggling cases last year, was arrested by the Department of Immigration and Emigration at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA), when he was deported from Malaysia yesterday.   
Making a breakthrough in a year-long probe by the Sri Lanka border agency, the chief local facilitator was caught in the act of transporting a 14-year-old boy with his father by the Malaysian Immigration Department last Monday, when the trio left BIA for Kuala Lumpur.   

A top Immigration official told the Daily Mirror their investigation division officials tracked down the main local facilitator of the syndicate a few months ago and had been closely monitoring his actions to determine his next move.   
The 76-year-old suspect (who was born in 1948) had been identified as a Tamil national residing in Dehiwala and the BIA immigration officials were alerted by their fellow agents outside that the suspect is about to leave the country on April 22nd.   
The department’s Border Surveillance Unit (BSU) stationed at the BIA quickly found that the suspect was not alone as he was moving together with a middle-aged man and his son inside the airport.   
The local immigration officials making a quick discussion amongst its senior officials decided to let the trio pass the immigration counters unhindered and board an AirAsia flight AK 044 bound for Kuala Lumpur around 10.30am on Monday.   
Once they boarded the flight the authorities immediately alerted their Malaysian counterparts about the arriving suspect and two victims of a fresh child smuggling attempt and ‘Imigresen Malaysia’ took them into custody at the Kuala Lumpur arrival counters.   
The Imigresen Malaysia grilled the suspect and the boy with his father for two days to record statements before they were deported back to Sri Lanka yesterday morning on AirAsia flight AK 045, where they were arrested on arrival.   The immigration sources said preliminary inquiries were carried out yesterday morning before handing all three persons to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Unit at the BIA for further investigations. The boy and his father were identified as residents of Jaffna. Controller Immigration Department’s Investigation Operations M.G.V. Kariyawasam headed the inquiries on the instructions of Immigration Controller General Harsha Illukpitiya.   
The Daily Mirror on November 28, 2023 broke the story that Immigration and Emigration Controller General Harsha Illukpitiya ordered an extensive investigation in April 2023, when the Malaysian immigration deported a 16-year-old Sri Lankan boy as a failed human smuggling attempt from Malaysia to the United Kingdom.   
Hence, the SL authorities checked all the departures involving 20,000 minors from BIA to various destinations including mainly to Malaysia six months back up to November 2022 from April 2023 .   
The Malaysian media reported in April 2023 that a local couple was arrested at the Kuala Lumpur immigration office for accompanying a Sri Lankan child as their offspring applying for a Malaysian passport.   
Preliminary investigations by the Malaysian authorities revealed that an organised syndicate was paying the parents of poor Malaysian families with underage children to get their birth certificates and information to apply for Malaysian passports for Sri Lankan children matching such descriptions.   
The Sri Lankan children who were successful in getting a genuine Malaysian passport had been sent to Europe and the United Kingdom and the syndicate had received 30,000 to 50,000 Euros for each Sri Lankan child sent to Europe with a Malaysian passport.   
SL authorities learnt that the child, a resident of Jaffna had been sent by his parents having paid a sum of Rs7.5 million to an unknown agent who is now suspected to be an international child smuggling syndicate operative.   
The immigration detectives managed to establish a pattern in 17 child departures from BIA to Malaysia from December 2022 to April 2023 and there is substantial evidence to believe that 13 children out of this had managed to land in the UK and France with Malaysian passports.   
The authorities managed to find the children’s parents and addresses in the Northern and Eastern provinces and subsequently visited the areas and made sure that the children had been sent to the said countries.   
Accordingly, the immigration officials found all these children were Tamil nationals and eight of them were from Jaffna and five from Batticaloa. They included 11 boys and two girls, who were between the ages of 11 to 16 years. Out of this, 11 children are suspected to have landed in the UK whilst two in France.   
During inquiries, the parents of these children have claimed that their relatives based in Europe had arranged and funded this opportunity to send their children to such countries by paying several million rupees, the official said.   
Once the immigration investigation was completed a full report had been furnished last November with the CID’s Human Trafficking, Smuggling Investigation and Maritime Security Investigation (HTSIMSID) to investigate the matter further.