Ramanathapuram again appears to be the ‘most preferred’ destination for smugglers after a long pause.
In the last 60 days alone, close to 10 metric tons of turmeric have been seized in Mandapam, Thondi and Rameswaram by the Central and State agencies in at least four different incidents.
The modus operandi was simple. According to police sources, a group of persons took the responsibility of procuring the product from open markets and handing it over to the ‘agent’ here by road. The goods are then taken by sea route and handed over to the ‘contact’ person in Sri Lanka, who in turn settles the payment through "hawala".
With the sea route between the two nation being just about 18 to 20 nautical miles, the boatman smuggle the goods in the shortest possible time and return to the shore.
A Q branch police team led by Inspector Maheswari seized 93 bags of turmeric at Kaarangadu, a sea shore point near Thondi on Tuesday. Preliminary interrogations revealed that the bags, which weighed 2,325 kilograms, were ready to be shipped to Colombo. According to the confessions, turmeric was in high demand in the island nation and the smugglers booked huge profits through the illegal route.
The police gave the names of the two arrested as Innasi, 24, of Thangachimadam and Raju, 54, of Rameswaram. They had received the turmeric from their accomplices Najmudeen and Yasser Arafat of Chennai. An officer, who interrogated the accused, said that Innasi operated the boat owned by Raju, who had been financed by the duo from Chennai. It is believed that the ‘contact’ in Colombo was related to one of the accused from Chennai.
An officer in the Marine Police said that a fortnight ago, in a similar operation, a boat from Thoothukudi district was spotted near Mandapam. Interrogations revealed that the mechanised boat had turmeric and was on its way to Colombo. Due to some technical snag, the boat was stranded and they seized the goods and the boat and also arrested the boatman.
Turmeric was selling like gold in Sri Lanka as there was high demand for the product following COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier, smugglers indulged in carrying narcotic substances to Sri Lanka and in return smuggled in gold.
According to the Q Branch police, the accused have been handed over to the Thondi police for further interrogation.