COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan court remanded nine Iranians in custody after they were caught with 107.22 kg of heroin onboard a trawler bound for the country on Monday.
Colombo Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne permitted the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) to detain and interrogate the suspects, and ordered it to submit a report to the court on the progress of the investigation.
The vessel was tracked on Sunday morning by a joint operations team comprised of PNB agents, a police special task force and the Sri Lankan navy ship Suranimala off the southern coast of Galle.
Security forces seized the vessel and arrested the nine Iranians, after which the suspects and boat were transferred to PNB custody in the capital.
At a press briefing on Sunday night, Police Superintendent Ruwan Gunasekara said that 99 packets of heroin had been found hidden in four fertilizer bags onboard the boat, and that the suspects had posed as fishermen.
He added that the trawler had been at sea around 14 days, and that on seeing the approaching Suranimala, the crew had dumped an estimated 500 kg of heroin into the water. Mobile and satellite phones had also been found and confiscated.
“It was a joint operation and a great victory in combating the drugs menace,” Lt. Cmdr. Isuru Sooriyabandara said.
As the suspects were unable to communicate in English, the PNB said it would seek assistance from the Iranian Embassy in Colombo to help with translation. Embassy sources, meanwhile, claimed that the nationalities of the nine detainees had not been confirmed.
Early this year, a 24-year-old Iranian woman was arrested by the PNB at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo for smuggling cannabis.