More underworld elements rounded -up | Sunday Observer
Largest illegal firearms cache found

More underworld elements rounded -up

23 August, 2020
Illegal firearms storage in Pitipana, Homagama
Illegal firearms storage in Pitipana, Homagama

The Police Special Task Force (STF) seized the largest weapons cache to be recovered from an underworld gang in Sri Lanka on June 29. Acting on a tip off, the STF found 11 T-56 and one T-81 assault rifle hidden in a house in Pitipana, Homagama. The haul of weapons is said to belong to the infamous drug lord ‘Gagana’, a close associate of the notorious underworld leader ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’.

Kosgoda Tharaka

The Police found more weapons from several safe houses of the gang including three T-56 assault rifles, over 750 rounds of T-56 assault rifle ammunition, four hand grenades, a pistol, two detonators, a locally manufactured gun, 10 rounds of ammunition used for repeater weapons, a pair of handcuffs, an air rifle and other explosive materials following the initial raid.

The discovery and information that the weapons belonged to the Kosgoda Tharaka’s gang led Acting IGP C.D Wickramaratne to hand over investigations to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Police. ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’ is the main suspect in the Matara jewellery store heist, which resulted in the death of a police officer following a shoot-out between criminals and the police.

As investigators arrested several suspects in connection to the illegal firearms cache including an underworld figure identified as ‘Potta Kapila’ perhaps the most shocking arrest happened on August 17 when the Police arrested a print media journalist for allegedly transporting the weapons cache from Minneriya to the safe house of the underworld gang in Pitipana, Homagama.

The 30-year old journalist, a crime reporter working for a leading Sinhala newspaper has now been accused of helping the gang to transport the weapons during the Covid-19 lockdown by using his government issued media accreditation to travel between districts undetected. While refusing to name the suspect, the Police only revealed that the arrested journalist is a resident of Ambakolawewa, Medamulana.

According to sources, the CID investigating the illegal stash of firearms had found that nearly 100 T-56 and T-58 firearms had been stolen from an Army camp in Minneriya to be sold.

The CID sleuths had hen traced the weapons in the possession of Kosgoda Tharaka’s gang to this haul of firearms stolen from the Army. Kosgoda Tharaka is believed to have purchased 30 firearms from this stash from the Boossa prison where he is serving a lengthy sentence.

While the purchase had been made during the Covid-19 lockdown, sources said Kosgoda Tharaka had then sought the assistance of an associate, identified as Narahenpita Amila as well as the arrested journalist to transport the purchased firearms from Minneriya to the safe house in Pitipana, Homagama.

Narahenpita Amila along with the journalist had left for Minneriya in a van during the Covid-19 lockdown. According to the Police they had displayed a media signboard to mislead the law enforcement and Security Forces.

Though the van had been stopped at several checkpoints from Colombo to Minneriya and back, they had gone undetected by using the journalist’s media accreditation and the media signboard.

According to the Police, the arrested journalist had previously worked at several leading Sinhala newspapers in the country and had made a name for himself as a crime reporter. Investigators now claim the journalist had been paid around Rs. 200,000 for helping the underworld figure Narahenpita Amila to transport the firearms. While the money had been deposited to the bank account of the journalist, the CID has already obtained the details of the transaction.

While the Police had uncovered the journalist’s role in transporting the illegal firearms nearly a month ago, the arrest had been delayed to ensure the Police uncovered all details connected to the incident prior to making the arrest.

Therefore, the CID had obtained mobile phone tower data before finally arresting the journalist on August 17.

While the State Intelligence service (SIS) with the CID had worked on uncovering the details relating to the journalist and his role in the smuggling of weapons, the Police said during questioning he has denied any involvement.

Instead the journalist has claimed that he was unaware of any weapons being in the vehicle he had travelled in with Narahenpita Amila and instead he is being framed by a group in the Special Task Force (STF) over a personal dispute.

The CID investigations have also revealed that two more journalists also working for leading newspapers in the country are connected to Kosgoda Tharaka’s gang. According to sources, the journalists are also said to be crime reporters of their newspapers. It appears that however journalists are not the only persons who have supported the activities of the underworld.

While all recent arrests including that of the journalist is linked to the case of an alleged drug smuggling racket carried out by a group of Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) officers, the CID this week also arrested two workers of the Government Analyst’s Department believed to be linked to the racket. Investigators have claimed that drugs sent by the law enforcement authorities to the Government Analyst’s Department for testing had been smuggled by the duo. The Police said this was revealed following the interrogation of two workers of the Government Analyst’s Department, who were arrested on Monday (17) for having drugs.

The Government Analyst’s Department worker who was arrested in Moratuwahena, Athurugiriya has now been detained and will be interrogated for seven days.

The suspect, a resident from Matara was arrested for the possession of 18.73 grams of heroin. The other Government Analyst’s Department worker was arrested on Monday (17) evening for having ICE and heroin.