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Sri Lankan authorities seize 250 kilos of heroin

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BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI | August 31, 2013 06:12 AM EST | AP

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan customs agents have seized 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of heroin worth $19 million from a container sent from Pakistan, in the largest-ever seizure of the drug in South Asia, an official said Saturday.

The heroin, concealed inside 17,500 small grease cans packed into a large container sent from the Pakistani city of Karachi, was found Friday at a customs terminal in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, said Mali Piyasena, a customs director.

A Pakistani national and three Sri Lankans were arrested in connection to the seizure and will be handed over to the police narcotics division after the completion of a customs investigation, Piyasena said.

He said customs agents received a tipoff about the heroin in July and were "waiting till the importer came to clear it."

Piyasena said it was the largest-ever haul of heroin seized in South Asia.

A police official involved in the investigation said Pakistanis are known to operate a narcotics ring that supplies heroin for Sri Lankan drug dealers and for shipment to European countries. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said authorities received information that part of this stock was for Sri Lanka, and the rest was to be shipped to Europe.

Sri Lankan authorities have seized large quantities of heroin and other drugs shipped from Pakistan in recent years, including 55 kilograms (121 pounds) of heroin concealed in fake potatoes in 2010.