Transnational Organised Crime : Sri Lanka needs extraordinary measures to protect itself - Senior DIG | Sunday Observer

Transnational Organised Crime : Sri Lanka needs extraordinary measures to protect itself - Senior DIG

In the face of a situation where Transnational Organised Crime (TOC) is growing at a fast pace, experts pointed out Sri Lanka will need extraordinary measures to shield itself from falling into a transit hub of TOC owing to its strategic geographical and maritime location.

Senior DIG Crimes, Organised Crime, Narcotics Range and STF Commandant M.R.Latiff said “Sri Lanka did not have a specific law to combat Transnational Crime which was a great impediment for the law enforcing authorities fighting TOC,”

He was speaking at a seminar, ‘Transnational Organised Crime (TOC) in Sri Lanka : Dark Side of the Hub’ organised by the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies (BCIS) in Colombo last week.

He said in the UK the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and Serious Crime Act 2015 provide the necessary teeth to fight transnational organised crime while in the US the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Institutions Act (RICO), the centerpiece of the Organised Crime Control Act 1970 and another group of statutes define and set punishments for organised crime.

In India, Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act of 1999 (MCOCA) serves the law enforcement with the necessary legal backing. Even Nepal and Singapore has specialised laws to combat the menace but Sri Lanka despite being in a very attractive location for the criminal syndicates, due to its positioning is yet to develop necessary laws.

According to him Sri Lanka has been considered both a transit and source point along the larger South and South East Asian smuggling routes.

He listed out that “Lack of exclusive statutes and Courts to combat organized crime, anticipating strong evidence and issues in inadmissibility of evidence, very tedious forfeiture procedures to freeze assets here or overseas and lack of political will with regard to extradition treaties being made effective, as stumbling blocks.

He said another major challenge for the police department is the top notch counsels appearing for the perpetrators of TOC. “ It sometimes turns out to be a case of a President’s Counsel or a Queens Counsel Vs GCE A/L qualified police officer.”

DIG Latiff also said the prisons system in the country serves as breeding grounds for criminals. “In other countries we have correction facilities, but here when an ordinary drug addict gets convicted, he comes out with a PhD in drug dealing. The hardcore convicts in the prison train him and recruit him into their criminal rings.”

Referring to a study, he said that in the month of March an indentified condemned prisoner in Welikada has made 3950 calls and he has received 360 calls, even from overseas including Malaysia.

Obviously he had no barrier to manage his business from within. The calls included those to Malaysia. He said “One might wonder if Sri Lanka Telecom was headquartered in Welikada? “

However, in offenses againt persons and people there is a decline in the crime rate from 2010 to April 2018. And the highest number of arrests of organised criminals, 287, had been made in the year 2016.

The narcotics situation in Sri Lanka is also considered serious. “It has been highlighted due to the increased number of detections by the law enforcement authorities lately,” Senior DIG Latiff explained.

“Especially after the SAARC visa on arrival facility is launched, there is an increase in south Asians arriving here and engaging in illegal drug trade. Among the arrested are Pakistanis, Maldivians, Bolivians, Afghans and Nigerians.”

“Sri Lanka is found to be a transit hub for Cocaine, an expensive drug for which there is no local market due to its high price. The local consumption of cocaine is about 1kg - 2kgs. The Navy recently made a detection of 928kgs. Heroin, CSL(Ganja)and Cocaine pass through Sri Lanka in large quantities.

He said there is an upward trend in the supply of psychotropic substances due to increased detections and decrease in supply of heroin. Quoting Global Financial Integrity-GFI 2017, Captain Rohan Joseph Secretary to the Chief of Defence Staff said, transnational crimes were growing at a faster pace than many realise, partly because the international community is not paying a lot of attention to it. Transnational crime is worth between $1.6 - $2.2 trillion per year. The Largest share of illicitly generated funds come from counterfeiting, worth between $923 b - $1.13 trillion per year, followed by drug trafficking which generates between $426 - $652 billion in illegal funds annually.

Human trafficking and trafficking of human organs, two major concerns for Sri Lanka, falls within the top ten such illegal revenue generators.

In the keynote speech, Secretary Defence Kapila Waidyaratne PC said diverse expansion of criminal networks are mostly felt by the developing and conflict ridden countries due to their weak rule of law. He added that TOC relies on industry experts like bankers, real estate brokers and attorneys who work as intermediate facilitators. The World Bank estimates US $ 1 trillion is spent each year to bribe public officials.

Director Operations, Sri Lanka CERT Rohana Palliyaguru spoke on Dimensions of Cyber Crime in SL while Home Affiars Minister Counsellor Scott Matheson shared Australian Experiences in Mitigating TOC at the Seminar.