Several containers carrying the agro-plant waste were opened and exhibited by the senior Customs officials at its inspection yard at Rank Container Terminal (RCT) in Orugodawatta yesterday afternoon.
Customs Additional Director General and its Spokesperson Sunil Jayaratne said the first batch of eight containers had arrived in the country on December 20 whilst the rest of the 20 containers had arrived at the Colombo Port on December 21.
The consignment had been shipped by a Ukrainian company called Agronika Trade PLC in Kyiv falsely declared as Whole Coriander Seeds with a bogus value of approximately Rs.75 million in the cargo manifest of the vessel that transported them.
ADG Jayaratne said the consignment was reportedly accompanied with a Phytosanitory Certificate issued by the State Service of Food Safety and Consumer Protection in Ukraine. A Phytosanitary Certificate is an official document required when shipping regulated articles such as plants, plant products or other regulated articles. A phyto-certificate is an official document that is generated from the exporting country's department of horticulture, agriculture, food or water resources.
The consignment which included grounded plant material or chips of trees had been addressed to eight consignees of the Pettah food trading community and some of them were believed to be reputed traders, who engage in day-to-day consumer product imports.
According to the preliminary investigations the Customs suspect whether the consignees had been tricked by a local indenting agent for sending waste instead of actual coriander, for which a large sum of money had already been paid by the traders.
The first four containers had been inspected by the officials of the Central Environment Authority (CEA) who instructed the Customs to re-export them to its origin.
Importation of plants or parts of plants is restricted under the Plant Protection Act.35 of 1999, whilst importation of any waste material is prohibited under the Customs Ordinance as well as the International Basel Convention, which Sri Lanka is a signatory.
Director of Customs Social Protection SPI Balasooriya and the team are conducting investigations on the instructions of Customs Director General Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Vijitha Ravipriya and Additional Director General Ananda Eshwaran.