Acquittal of group indicted for smuggling 197 kg of heroin

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, will soon move the Supreme Court against the recent acquittal of five persons indicted at the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar for the possession of nearly 197 kgs of heroin.

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said so when The Island raised the growing public discontent over the acquittal of the entire group, intercepted and arrested by the Navy (SLNS Sagara), in international waters, in April 2019.

Asked how he expected to restore public confidence in the much-touted government offensive against narcotics trade, considering the failure of the AG Department’s to bring the high profile case to a successful conclusion, Minister Alles said the SC would be moved tomorrow or the day after.

Rajaratnam succeeded Dappula de Livera, PC, in May 2021. At the time of the detection, the incumbent Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, had served as the AG.

The Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar, having concluded the hearings within six months, acquitted and discharged the suspects on April 06, 2023, on the basis the prosecution failed to prove the charges against the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar Bench comprising Colombo High Court Judges Adithya Patabendige, Manjula Thilakaratne and Mahesh Weeraman, held that there were serious contradictions in the evidence led by the prosecution.

Minister Alles acknowledged his concerns over contradictions in evidence given by police officers. State Defence Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon told The Island that this particular issue received their prompt attention.

Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, appointed a Trial-at-Bar following a request made by AG Rajaratnam.The suspects in this case were Jayakody Arachchige Anura Chaminda Appuhamy, Thawarasa Sudakaran, Aglesa Pillai Thawarasa, Yaddihi Arachchige Lasantha Priyalal and Kandayiya Chandrakumar.

Navy headquarters directed Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) SLNS Sagara to intercept the fishing craft carrying heroin after police alerted the presence of the vessel in international waters.

The then head of the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), Senior DIG Sajeewa Madawatte, had been at the Trincomalee harbour to take the suspects into custody. Although the weight of the recovered heroin had been given as 293.19 kilos subsequently that amount was reduced to 196 kilos and 986 grams.

Senior DIG Medawatte was transferred out of the PNB, in July 2020, in the wake of the disclosure of the alleged involvement of several PNB personnel, with narcotics dealers. Madawatte now heads the Support Service, in addition to being the senior officer in charge of the North Western Province. Several attempts made by The Island to contact Senior DIG Medawatte weren’t successful.Police spokesperson SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the media would be briefed of the developments once he got in touch with DIG in charge of Police Legal Division.


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