Sri Lanka Customs along with the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) will destroy the largest haul of illicit cigarettes detected in the country’s history, which is over 200 million sticks came in 21 containers in 2021 with an estimated value of Rs.9.7 billion, in Muthurajawela today.

Top officials of the Customs Department including its chief Sarath Nonis with subject minister, State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya will witness the destruction of seized tobacco at Waste to Energy thermal power generating plant in Muthurajawela this morning.

The massive haul of illicit cigarettes consist of over 200 million sticks had arrived in the country in 21 containers in May, 2021 from Dubai as part of an entrepot consignment to be reshipped to a numerous European destinations declared as Ceylon black tea.

Customs Compliance and Facilitation Division officials following a lengthy probe thwarted an attempt by a local businessman, who operated in the guise of a tea trader engaged in transshipments between the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands.

On May 14, 2021, the local exporter had received the contraband from another Sri Lankan living in Dubai and the contraband was to be reshipped to many destinations including the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany. A local shipping line agency owner, a clearing and forwarding agency owner, a wharf clerk who were found guilty of this major smuggling attempt had been imposed with heavy fines from rupees three to four million each.

The contraband was displayed to the media at the Rank Container Terminal (RCT) in Orugodawatta in 2021 and a senior Customs official said it took more than two years to plan the destruction process.

The CTC holding a monopoly in the country’s cigarette manufactory and sales had signed a MoU with the Customs to destroy cigarettes detected by the latter. The CTC will pay one rupee to the Customs for every seized stick. The usual practice is to first crush the seized cigarettes in special tobacco crushers at the CTC premises in Kotahena, which will then be sent to destroy in the incinerators of the Holcim cement plant in Puttalam.

A senior Customs official told that this practice is not practical for a very large stock like this as transporting 21 container loads to Puttalam will involve a huge transporting cost etc.

Meanwhile, a senior official at the CTC told that the destruction will take place at waste to energy thermal power plant this time owing to the massive stock and they will destroy one container of fags per day again due to the same reason. Thus the destruction process, which is expected to last for more than two weeks, will commence today, the official said.

Source daily mirror