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Cablegate: Counternarcotics Update: Latest Heroin

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001512

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SA/INS, INL/AAE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SNAR PREL CE
SUBJECT: Counternarcotics Update: Latest heroin
seizures; New trend in smuggling; USG assistance enroute

Refs: (A) State 237943

- (B) Colombo 580, and previous (All Notal)

1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified --
Please handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) This update of the counternarcotics situation
in Sri Lanka reviews the following:

>> Latest heroin seizures

>> Police report a new trend in drug smuggling

>> USG assistance for Sri Lanka's counternarcotics
efforts on the way

3. (U) LATEST HEROIN SEIZURES: Sri Lanka's key anti-
narcotics unit, the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB), has
made several recent large-scale seizures of heroin.
Several of the key interdictions are listed below:

-- In early July, PNB officials arrested two Colombo-
based police officers who were carrying 350 grams of
heroin,

-- On August 5, police officers caught an individual
with 500 grams of heroin -- valued at USD 120,000 -- in
the northwestern town of Mannar,

-- On August 25, police arrested a man with 314 grams of
heroin,

-- On August 26, PNB officers arrested a woman with 308
grams of heroin in Colombo.

4. (SBU) NEW TRENDS IN DRUG SMUGGLING: In other
counternarcotics developments, Pujith Jayasundara, the
PNB director, briefed emboffs on a new trend in drug
trafficking during an August 28 meeting. According to
Jayasundara, the general relaxation in tensions sparked
by the peace process between the GSL and the Liberation
Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has opened many new doors
for Sri Lankan nationals and foreigners alike in
traveling to Sri Lanka. One of those newly opened doors
has enabled easier trafficking of heroin into Sri Lanka.

5. (SBU) Elaborating, Jayasundara related that,
although once closed to almost all commercial traffic
during the pre-peace track period, the waters off Sri
Lanka's northwestern coast are newly open to fishermen
and other commercial vessels. (Note: A spit of land
off the northwestern coastal town of Mannar is Sri
Lanka's closest point to India, with the Sri Lankan town
of Talaimannar only some 22 miles away from Tamil Nadu
across a shallow body of water known as "Adam's
Bridge.") Jayasundara said drug traffickers have taken
advantage of this close proximity and newfound access to
ship narcotics into Mannar and other northwestern areas.
If all goes well for the traffickers in crossing the
"Adam's Bridge" area and landing in Sri Lanka's
northwest, it is an easy drive south to Colombo and
other southern destinations where the major illicit drug
markets are located. He further noted that
transshipment of narcotics via airplane passengers
arriving in Colombo, and drug boats landing along the
western and southern coasts continue. Given this,
Jayasundara, the head of the PNB, lamented that: "With
the same amount of resources, we now have another
trafficking route to patrol."

6. (SBU) USG-FUNDED ASISTANCE ON THE WAY: The USG is
avidly working to provide assistance to the PNB. An
April 2003 needs assessment of the PNB by the Department
of Justice was so successful that Justice, in
coordination with the State Department, has decided to
provide USD 250,000 to fund a skills-enhancement project
with the PNB (see Ref A). Recognizing the PNB's
potential for improvement as an organization, the
project is focused on enhancing the investigative
ability of PNB officers, and enhancing the bureau's
cooperation with other GSL police and customs agencies.
The project is also slated to provide enforcement and
surveillance equipment. Jayasundara told emboffs that
the government appreciated the assistance and that he
looked forward to working with USG officials on
increasing his bureau's effectiveness.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite the latest seizures and the
new Mannar route, there is no evidence that the amount
of heroin being exported into Sri Lanka is skyrocketing.
Based on what we are hearing, the overall amount of
contraband getting into Sri Lanka is probably roughly
the same as in past years. The PNB feels, however, that
it is doing a better job with interdiction and may
attain a higher amount of seizures this year (the PNB
feels that, in general, it intercepts roughly 10 percent
of the contraband that is being shipped in). Re the
Mannar route, while there is little doubt that the peace
process has brought many overwhelmingly positive changes
in Sri Lankan life since it began in December 2001, the
drawdown of Sri Lankan security forces appears to have
provided traffickers increased openings to smuggle in
contraband. END COMMENT.

8. (U) Minimize considered.

ENTWISTLE

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