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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Racket-busting Customs chief fired; transferred to Treasury;CID questions Sunday Times journalist

Customs Director General Neville Gunawardena has been removed from his post and transferred back to the Treasury with immediate effect amidst a CID probe on who leaked to the Sunday Times news regarding the Treasury chief’s interference in investigations into huge rackets.

He will be replaced from tomorrow by Jagath Wijeweera, Commissioner General for Registration of Persons.
 The move comes amidst probes by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as to how details of an order by the Treasury to halt a Customs inquiry into an excise racket had leaked to the media.

The Sunday Times exclusively reported on September 16 that the Treasury had stalled a Customs probe on alcohol importing firms.

The report said the Customs had been ordered by the Treasury to halt investigations into nine dummy companies that imported ethyl alcohol for industrial purposes but sold it surreptitiously to liquor manufacturers.

The Customs raided one of the factories at Gampaha and sealed it in September after it was found to be importing large stocks of ethyl alcohol in the past two years. In August alone, it had imported 20,000 litres.
 In an official report submitted it was revealed the estimated revenue loss would be Rs. 1 billion.

On Thursday, two CID officers visited the Sunday Times and recorded the statement of the journalist who reported the story. The CID’s main concern was who in the Customs had given the story to this newspaper. They said they were acting on a complaint by Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundara.

They questioned the journalist on the source of information and as to whether he had spoken to the Customs Director General about the racket. The CID was told that, as reported in the newspaper, the Director General had declined to comment on the inquiry.

Earlier the Customs’ Revenue Task Force (RTF) was disbanded after some traders complained that they were being fined at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) when they imported goods mainly from India and Thailand.

The unit was disbanded on the instructions of Dr. Jayasundara.


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