Sophisticated equipment on the way
Hunt on for underworld gangs
@ Sunday Observer
Sunday, 8 June 2003
IGP, T.E. Anandarajah has set up a new unit at Police Headquarters to combat serious crime. The officers in the new unit will nab hardcore criminals in the country.
The unit comprises Special Task Force (STF) personnel and other officers with special training whose identity has been kept secret. The main purpose of forming such a unit is to flush out criminals from hiding and bring them to book. The unit functions directly under the IGP. A fleet of vehicles along with other communication equipment has been issued for swift operations. Police Headquarters have already identified 28 underworld gangs involved in serious crimes during the past few months.
by JAYAMPATHY JAYASINGHE
Police have been able to ferret a reasonable amount of information regarding underworld gangs operating in the island and who were responsible for the spate of crimes in and around the city. In some instances the sophisticated equipment used by criminals was more sophisticated than that possessed by the police.
There has been tremendous public cooperation in this regard because the public are now aware that they will not in danger of being identified as informants, police source said.
Police are of the view that such a situation had arisen because of public confidence in the Police. Upto now the police were working single handedly trying to solve the many crimes, but now with public cooperation it is seemingly easier.
In the recent triple murder in Dehiwela, police say the public have volunteered information and three suspects are being interrogated and a close tab is being kept on a few more. Police are sure of a breakthrough shortly.
The mastermind allegedly involved in the conspiracy to murder the PA Provincial Minister, M. K. Ranjith, while returning to his car which was parked at York Street Fort, was arrested at a private hospital in Nugegoda by a team of police officers from the South. Two other accomplices have also been arrested, police said.
DIG Southern Province, A. Prathapasinghe told the Sunday Observer that several police teams have been despatched to arrest the other suspects, which include brothers of the alleged culprit who are believed to be involved in the killing.
According to Police the suspect has been identified as a member belonging to the Suriyaweva gang that have terrorised the southern province and was linked to about 25 killings. The suspect was also involved in a large scale fraud where he had drawn more than rupees 10 million from the Sri Lanka Army on forged vouchers. He had befriended several women in the southern province and allegedly fleeced them, police said.
CID sleuths investigating the murder said the suspect arrived at the CID office at the time when the PA Minister called over at the CID office. Later both of them left the CID office and the suspect was seen talking to the minister at Baron Jayatilleke Mawatha, Fort, prior to the shooting. The suspect was ordered by court to report to CID every month.
The Provincial Council Minister was shot dead by two persons who arrived in a car and had been waiting in ambush at York Street. When the minister was walking up to his car the two men had walked up to him and one person had opened fire with an automatic weapon. After the minister fell down two more shots were fired at him to make sure he was dead before the suspects escaped. "We were able to trace mobile phone conversation before and after the assassination," Police sources said.
Police top brass revealed that high tech equipment is on the way from abroad to put a hold on the rising crime rate. All these days police were handicapped because they lacked sophisticated equipment to nab criminals. Although they were reasonably aware of the goings on of the underworld. Another reason for the upsurge in crimes is the political patronage the underworld received.
Senior DIG, Chandra Fernando revealed that modern automated finger printing matching equipment would facilitate the solving of major crimes. He revealed that most criminals left finger prints at the scene of the crime, but that the manual process of matching finger prints was time consuming. There was a loophole for criminals to escape.
With Police coming down hard on Drug peddlers and drug dealers, many unsolved crimes will also be cleared, they further revealed.
Colombo Crime Division's (CCD) Director, Supdt. of Police, Sarath Lugoda who busted a notorious gang recently linked to several murders in the Southern Province said criminal gangs thrive because they are financed by businessmen to get their "jobs" done. "It is quicker and cheaper for a businessmen to get a tenant evicted by paying the underworld than resorting to legal action which is time consuming."
He said underworld gangs were linked to businessmen who use them for contract killing, debt collecting, evicting tenants by unlawful methods, drug smuggling and gun running. "The gangs also demand a ransom from those who indulge in drug peddling and other vices like running brothels and massage parlours," he said.
Asked how the underworld gangs come to possess such sophisticated weapons such as 9 mm calibre pistols and T-56 automatic weapons that are often used in murders and robberies, SP Lugoda said that there is a proliferation of weapons today owing to service deserters who sell stolen weapons to the underworld. Several service deserters are also linked to major crimes today.
He said fishermen involved in smuggling of drugs are also linked to terrorists groups that supply them with automatic weapons."There are about 10-15 criminal gangs operating in Colombo and its suburbs. Recently we busted up a notorious armed gang operating from a house at Piliyandala. They were responsible for several murders in the Southern province."
In 2001 the crime busting unit of Colombo Central headed by Senior Supdt. of Police, D.A. Fonseka were able to round up 16 underworld figures belonging to two rival gangs operating in the Maligawatte and Maradana area and recovered a cache of arms and ammunition including a T-56 automatic rifle, two 9 mm Browning pistols, three hand grenades and a S- 84 automatic rifle with several rounds of ammunition. The underworld characters were also involved in three murders committed in the Maradana area. Along with the haul of weapons police also found a 3-wheeler taxi with blood stains in the Maradana area.
A senior police officer said that most gang members come from the lower strata of society and were uneducated. They find it difficult to find employment and are quickly drawn to crime. Many of them are relatively young between the ages of 16 -35 and are from suburban towns. Their earnings depend on the type of assignment they get. For instance to get a person evicted from a business premises may cost a couple of lakhs. But most gangsters are in the habit of demanding money from time to time from drug dealers and brothel keepers. The sums may vary from Rs. 200,000 upwards. They also undertake contract killing for sums ranging from Rs. 100,000. Many "successful" gangsters lead an ostentatious life with the type of money they earn.
They travel about in private vehicles and indulge in vices such as gambling and patronise brothels. Many gangsters are protected by politicians who often act as their body guards during election campaigns.
The rise in crime is attributed to the availability of drugs in Sri Lanka. The heroin smuggling operation in Sri Lanka began in 1980 and the first detection was made in 1981 with 275 grams. Prior to this however, large amounts of opium and ganja have been detected in Sri Lanka. According to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) there are 34 major drug dealers operating in Sri Lanka. The bulk of heroin that arrives in Sri Lanka is from north India and most of it arrives by boat. According to Interpol Sri Lanka has become a transit point for heroin that is smuggled to Western Europe.
A senior PNB official said that only 10 percent of the drugs that arrive in Sri Lanka are detected. The largest detection of heroin was made in 2002 with 60 KG worth several millions. It is likely that the PNB will open an office in the Harbour police to stem the flow of drugs shipped in containers from Sri Lanka. A recent survey has found that there are 100,000 drug addicts in Sri Lanka.
Prison Data shows that 40 percent of inmates languishing in prisons are drug addicts. There were 9000 narcotics offences in 1999 as against 8000 in 1991.