The Excise Department on Saturday arrested a 45-year-old man suspected to be one of the main inter-State spirit smugglers in south Kerala.

Officials identified the suspect as Kingsley, alias Sili, a resident of Parassala. He is accused in 14 spirit smuggling cases in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Excise officials said Kingsley made his fortune after the State enforced the arrack ban in 1996. He bought the surplus spirit in the custody of arrack shop contractors and later sold it to toddy shop contractors who retailed the illicit stuff on the sly through their licensed outlets.

Pallipuram seizure

Investigators said his recent arrest was in connection with the Excise Department’s seizure of 4,375 litres of spirit from a lorry at Pallipuram on May 6 this year. The spirit cans, each with a capacity of 35 litres, were found hidden inside a concealed cavity inside the vehicle.

Excise enforcers had arrested the lorry’s driver, a person with a history of alcohol abuse.

The enforcers said the driver stated that one Sasi had contracted him for Rs.5,000 to drive the lorry from a fuel outlet near Oorambu on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border near Kaliyikkavila to a pre-determined point near Attingal.

Investigators found that Sasi was incarcerated in a prison in Tamil Nadu on spirit smuggling charges. When questioned, Sasi told Excise investigators that he had run the spirit smuggling operation at the behest of Kingsley.

Excise officials said Kingsley’s arrest has thrown light on how Namakkal in Tamil Nadu had emerged as the focal point of spirit smuggling operations into Tamil Nadu.

They said a few top-level operatives, some of whom were yet to be identified, transported spirit in bulk, often up to 1 lakh litres, in container lorries to warehouses situated in outlying areas in south Tamil Nadu, including at Namakkal.

The contraband stuff was then smuggled into Kerala in lesser quantities and supplied to certain persons who ran licensed toddy outlets in Alappuzha and Kollam districts in the name of others. The licensees on paper were mere name-lenders.

The Excise Department has sought the custody of Kingsley for further questioning to identify his clients and networks.

Excise Circle Inspector K. Ramachandran investigated the case.