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`Increase in brown sugar smuggling to Sri Lanka causes concern'

By K.T. Sangameswaran

CHENNAI, FEB. 4. Narcotics Control Bureau authorities are concerned over the increase in the quantity of brown sugar meant for smuggling to Sri Lanka. Of the 160 kg of brown sugar seized in 2004, 154 kg was meant for the island. In 2003 the total seizure was 122 kg of which 118 kg was destined for the neighbouring country, the bureau's south zonal director, Shankar Jiwal, told The Hindu.

The number of cases — 25 — registered by the south zonal unit in 2004 was the highest since its formation in 1986. However, the authorities pointed out that the involvement of the islanders had increased last year than in 2003. While 18 islanders and an Indian of Sri Lankan origin were arrested last year, the number of Sri Lankans arrested in 2003 was 16.

`Increase in price'

Mr. Jiwal said that with the intensification of vigil and seizures in India, supply of heroin to the island had come down. Hence the "street market price" of the contraband had increased to 18 lakh Indian Rupees in Sri Lanka compared to just six lakh Indian Rupees four years ago. Also, most of the "big players" who used to smuggle quantities that exceeded 10 kg in one instalment were behind the bars. The other operatives were now attempting to carry heroin weighing less than 10 kg because they could incur heavy loss if the contraband was seized. seized. This trend was evident in the last three seizures in Madurai, Tiruchi and Chennai last month where the quantities did not exceed 5.5 kg. Interestingly, in the case relating to the seizure of 3.750 kg of heroin at the Chennai Central railway station on January 29, two of those arrested were Tamils settled in Madhya Pradesh. One of them had told the investigating agency that he was working as a medical representative.

Mr. Jiwal said there was information that smugglers were now choosing Madurai and Tiruchi for their operations. There was a lull in the smuggling activity for about 10-15 days after the December 26 tsunami strike. It picked up later.

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