Colombo, Feb 11 IANS | 8 months ago

A Pakistani national was arrested at Sri Lanka's main international airport here for attempting to smuggle heroin concealed inside 12 oranges, an official said Tuesday.

Customs spokesman Leslie Gamini told reporters that the authorities arrested the 64-year-old suspect at the arrival terminal of the Bandaranaike International Airport here Tuesday morning, Xinhua reported.

The suspect arrived from Karachi with about one kilogram of heroine concealed inside 12 of tghe 70 oranges that were carried as part of his baggage.

The drug was first packed in polythene bags before being stuffed inside the oranges. The heroin is estimated to be worth SLRs.1 million ($7,750).

Sri Lanka's government last month expressed fear that the island is becoming a transhipment hub for drugs after police records revealed 53,000 people were arrested for drug offences in 2013.

Arrests have increased in 2013 as a result of stepped up crackdowns, police said in a statement, pointing out that most arrests were for possessing marijuana.

Police also noted that they had seized about 300 kg of hard drugs, which is a massive increase from just 15 kg detected in 2012.

"Such large quantities suggest that the drugs are not for internal consumption but to be shipped elsewhere," Keheliya Rambukwella, government spokesman and media minister, told reporters.

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne is also under pressure from opposition parties to resign after his secretary was implicated in a drug scandal.

The incident has increased pressure on the Sri Lankan government to investigate political involvement in drug smuggling.

Since 2012, special police teams have been deployed at the Bandaranaike International Airport to detect smuggling attempts.

Sri Lanka has also been used as a transit point involving other countries such as Brazil, Peru, Thailand and Nigeria.

In 2011, the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board in its annual report warned that the country was under increasing threat from drug smuggling.

Over 60 foreigners have been arrested for drug smuggling in the last five years, the report added.

(Posted on 11-02-2014)

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