Mr. Nagananda Kodithuvakku, the secretary of the Active Public Rights Empowerment Foundation, attorney at law, Mr. Nagananda Kodithuvakku, has made a unique revelation about a large-scale fraud that is depriving the country of billions of rupees in foreign exchange.
He points out that this smuggling of used mobile phones to Sri Lanka and selling them as new phones have been going on for some time. He revealed this regarding the large-scale financial fraud allegedly taking place through the importation of mobile phones by joining the Chamuditha News Brief program conducted by journalist Chamuditha Samarawickrama. We present that discussion for you readers of ‘Mawrata’ as follows.
You mentioned the other day that the Sri Lankan Customs raided several leading phone shops. What is that raid?
At this time, there is a big problem regarding foreign exchange. People don’t have money to buy phones. Also, a meeting was held in the Ministry of Finance because people were importing phones by evading taxes. C.I.D. Customs, TRC attended this meeting. A decision was made on how to stop fake phone fraud. But there is a problem here for the Sri Lankan customs. We don’t think they have necessary manpower. The Deputy Director General of Customs Mr. Ranaraja accordingly ordered to raid it immediately.
Then this raid was done only on selected shops based on a complaint made by someone?
No, the raid was done in general. But this is a scam that happens not only in Colombo but everywhere. Fake phones are sold in the market. After that raid, a shop in Marina Mall and two shops in Liberty Plaza were raided and three hundred phones were taken into custody by the customs. The problem here is how these things happen.
Why only three shops were raided?
Can’t raid many when two or three raided , all others hide their items.
Does that mean tipped beforehand?
As they go, they hide the ones in other shops. This is normal. This is the gift given to Sri Lanka by the 225.
Does that mean that this fake phone smuggling is being done on a large scale in Sri Lanka?
Large scale phone companies also do this. Half of them have fake phones.
What do you call this fake phone?
There is no tax on it. No import license. No TRC registration, nothing.
Are these original phones or reconditioned phones?
They bring originals and broken ones. You know about brothels. The police also go to them. Raids every now and then. Customs is also like that. Let it go a few times and raid in between. The one detected may be a broken phone. Then it is handed over to the customs saying that it has been caught.
Then, in this way, the children of our country are allowed to use the inferior phones. Zoom classes and other educational activities. Then what kind of harm will it do to the health of the children?
Children’s health is also affected. The reason for that is that there is no regulation in our country. Like the parliament, there is no system anywhere. The system is completely broken in this country. You can bring anything by paying money.
Now these are brought through bank L.C. Not by opening it. How to send money for this then?
Harin Fernando said that lakhs of tourists are coming now. What do they bring? They bring Euros. Brings British pounds. Bringing dollars. What are you doing with that money? There is a separate group to collect the foreign money they bring from tourist hotels and restaurants. Collecting millions. The money is packed in briefcases and taken back through the airport.
Where are they taking it?
British Pound to England. Euro to European Union countries. Dollars to America. Now what’s going on with this? This money is secretly collected and secretly driven out of the country.
Who are these people?
Smugglers do this by contacting Sri Lanka Customs.
Then what will happen to the revenues that Sri Lanka receives?
You don’t get five cents. Harin Fernando said that lakhs of tourists are coming. Why is there a foreign exchange problem in this country after all that money?
If you or I are leaving the country, we have a certain amount of money that we can take with us. Then how do you leave the briefcases and take the money?
That’s what it means. What is packed in individual suitcases? Foreign currency. This is carried by cash.
Then the people who bring these fake phones are also taking this kind of money?
They might be taking it too. Maybe the box of the phone is removed and the cash is put in it
If the phone is smuggled in, it will not be registered anywhere in Sri Lanka. There is no record of how many phones were brought. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka banned the import of many goods. But almost all of those types of goods are available in the market?
Definitely. There is no law in this country. The country is built that way by 225.
One of the advisors of Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe is now appearing for the B.M.W. case in the court. He is a member of the Finance Board of the Central Bank. How does that happen? To that extent, the rule of law in the country has collapsed.
Those who smuggle these phones take money either in their hands or hidden. How do you get these phones?
These are organized frauds. An average passenger can bring 20 kg. These people bring maybe 200 kilos.
But you can pay for extra kilos, right?
No. It has gold member and silver member. Airlines have given special support to those who travel to foreign countries every day.
Are the people doing this phone scam going to the country three or four times a week?
Yes. Then they don’t have to pay a big extra fee. I told that to the director of airport customs, Lal Weerakoon.
When a certain plane leaves the country concerned, the customs people can get the information of the people coming on that plane. You can get information like how many people are coming in it, how much the luggage weighs, is he a special person. Take the information that way, takes those names as soon as the plane lands, and confiscate their belongings.
But there must be a tip to do that, right?
Yes. There is a method to it. I said the system is now corrupt.
For example, I am coming with 200 kilos of goods. It has four to five hundred phones. Then I come the day of my dear customs officer is there?
Will he be there then?
Then he will not open my parcels and doesn’t look?
Definitely. No need.
Will he be paid for a phone?
Yes. There is a daily collection at the airport. That collection is divided among the group that day. The country is fed up with that situation.
That means for example 5,000 rupees for one phone. He tells the customs officer that I am bringing so many pieces sir. Then he sends him out without checking?
Yes. They are loaded in big trolleys and go out. The rule of law in this country is zero. In every institution. Not only in customs.
Are these mostly imported from Dubai?
It could be Dubai, it could be Singapore, it could be Hong Kong. It is also brought from India.
But I bring 300 pieces. But I tell the customs officer that there are 200. Can you fool him like that?
Yes, you can do that. They agree to what they say is there.
Why is there a director of customs when frauds like this happen?
He doesn’t see every passenger. There are supervisors to see them. If any complaint comes to the director, he will certainly intervene.
You mean T.R.C. As long as it is not regulated, as long as there are customs officers to take the money, these fake phones cannot be stopped?
I don’t like to single out the customs officers and attack them. The 225 in parliament should be held responsible for all this because they destroyed the law of this country.