Saturday, March 5, 2016

AG’s Love Affair With The Rogues Gallery

From The Sunday Leader - by Nirmala Kannangara

Former AG deliberately avoided giving instructions on FCID investigations resulting in long delays in criminals being brought to book

The former Attorney General’s (AG’s) failure to advise the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) on what action to take against powerful politicians and major players of the Rajapaksa regime facing bribery and corruption charges, has hampered the legal process, reliable FCID sources said.
The FCID completed investigations into major frauds that took place during the previous regime and submitted the files to the AG’s Department seeking advice for further action, but according to FCID sources, the former AG had deliberately avoided giving instructions on these investigations.
FCID sources on condition of anonymity said that the facts and figures of corruption involving the major players of the Rajapaksa regime are staggering but so far instituting legal action has been delayed because of AG’s Department reticence.
“It is surprising that the AG’s Department did not advice on these cases; we believe it is because they didn’t want us to take legal action as all of them are Rajapaksa supporters,” sources alleged.
FCID sources also said investigations into financial irregularities in the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Board of the Ministry of Tourism have revealed that Rs.5.7 million had been misappropriated during the Rajapaksa regime.
“Former Chairman Tourism Development Board Bashwara Senanka Gunatilaka, former Director General D.S. Jayaweera, former Managing Director Rumy Jaufer and former Finance Director Chathukarage Wimalasena are accused of providing food to Basil Rajapaksa’s Gampaha office while he was Tourism Minister and spending Tourism Development Board funds for the 2015 presidential election campaign work. Charges were filed under the Public Property Act and the ‘B’ report filed in the Fort Magistrate’s Court. Although this had been referred to the AG’s Department, due to the delay in giving instructions, the FCID was unable to take further legal action,” sources added.
“The Ministry of Economic Development initiated ‘Yali Pubudamu’ or Rise Again where Former Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Secretary  from the Ministry are accused of financial irregularities. Although the relevant files on this had been submitted to the AG last year by the FCID, we are yet to receive instructions to go ahead with our investigations,” sources claimed.
The AG’s Department’s failure to give its approval to take legal action against former Chairman State Engineering Corporation Raj Edirisuriya for misappropriating Rs.4.8 million during the Rajapaksa regime is a setback, FCID sources said.
The FCID has also filed a ‘B’ report at the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court (B 26907/03/15) against former Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa and former Chairman of Ocean View Development Company (Pvt) Ltd B. K. J. K. Perera for their alleged involvement in misuse of public property during the Rajapaksa regime.
Weerawansa has allegedly misused his ministerial powers and obtained six houses constructed by Ocean View Development Company (Pvt) Limited which is jointly owned by the Urban Development Authority and National Housing Development Authority. Weerawansa has been accused of giving these houses for a pittance to his and his wife’s siblings without adhering to the normal procedure. He is also charged for his alleged involvement in misappropriation of funds in leasing out the ground floor of Ocean View Development Company to a restaurant. The complaint was lodged by villagers in Hokandara on May 5 and the ‘B’ report filed in Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court (B 40/2015) on May 14 and deeds of the lands in question obtained from the Land Registry of Homagama. Another pending case awaiting AG’s advice is the process Wimal Weerawansa followed when he was the Minister of Housing and Construction to award control of a land worth Rs. 306 Million to his wife Shashi Weerawansa. “Although all the investigations have now been completed, including Shashi Weerawansa’s passport fraud and the BOI company related fraud, the FCID is still anticipating instructions from the AG’s Department. The ‘B’ report (B/40/2015) had been filed at Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court regarding Shashi Weerawansa’s land deals,” sources added.
Former high-ranking officials at Milk Industries of Lanka Company (MILCO) too are under scrutiny in relation to misappropriation of funds amounting to Rs. 600 million.
“The FCID obtained all the documents relevant to the case and former Ministry Secretary and present Chairman Sunimal Ratnayake, former Ministers Arumugam Thondaman, C.B. Ratnayake and Basil Rajapaksa and former Chairman Sunil Wickremasinghe stand accused of fraud. The FCID also obtained statements from Wimal Rajapaksa, Manager MILCO, Chairman of the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) of the Desmy Project P. Kapila Srimal, Directors W.D. Prabhath Fonseka, Ajith Dassanayake and Mahinda Navaratne, TEC member W.K.A. Thappawila, Legal Officer Uththara Rodrigo, former Secretaries Livestock Ministry Ashoka Milinda Kodituwakku and A.H. Gamage,” sources added. Although the ‘B’ report had been filed at Fort Magistrate’s Court (B/ 1171/ 15) last year, the FCID is yet to receive instructions from the AG’s Department.
Meanwhile, the former Economic Development Minister is also implicated in financial irregularities in the Isurumath Nivahanak project conducted by the Divi Neguma Department which caused losses amounting to billions of rupees. “Rajapaksa was charged under the Public Property Act, remanded, and later bailed out, for allegedly misusing several billion rupees of Divi Neguma funds. “The minister had given orders to get these calendars printed with Divi Neguma funds. The previous regime said that these calendars were printed to be distributed amongst the Divi Neguma beneficiaries as it is a benefit for them. The first Divi Neguma national convention was held by spending Rs. 63.723 million, bypassing Treasury regulations. We are expecting the AG’s Department to give their advice at the earliest to take further legal action against those who misused public funds,” sources claimed. Meanwhile investigations have been conducted on Pushpa Rajapaksa, wife of Basil Rajapaksa to ascertain how she was able to obtain funds amounting to Rs.19.4 Million (US$ 150,000) allegedly from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) into the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation bank account at Peoples Bank, Sri Lanka.  It is learnt that Chairman State Mortgage Bank, Jagath Wellawatte and three former directors too have been questioned about an alleged transfer of funds amounting to Rs.1.5 million from the State Mortgage Bank to the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation without Cabinet approval. Three more bank officers too have been questioned by the FCID over the alleged money transfer without Cabinet approval.
Meanwhile the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation had received US$ 150,000 from a Chinese Company, a subsidiary of SLPA. This Chinese company has 15 percent shares with SLPA, and had remitted US$ 150,000 to the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation which  had been allegedly used to repair houses for low income families and to give scholarships for underprivileged students during the last presidential election.
The Assistant Bank Manager, People’s Bank Head Office, Finance Manager of the Chinese company and its General Manager, the Trustee of the Pushpa Rajapaksa Foundation N.H. Nandasiri, its Treasurer Mahendra Prabath Ramasinghe and Secretary Chitral Amaratunge had also been questioned by the FCID over the money allegedly obtained for the Foundation from the Chinese company.
“The FCID filed a ‘B’ report – B 586/15 in the Fort Magistrate’s Court and submitted the investigation report to the Attorney General’s Department on June 5 but are yet to receive advice from them,” sources added.
Meanwhile, Grand Hyatt Hotel is also under investigation and a ‘B’ report has been filed (B/25389/1/15) at Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court against the former President’s Chief of Staff. The FCID has also filed a ‘B’ report in the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court (Case No. 24327/2015) over irregularities in Lanka Hospital shares amounting to Rs. 600 million.
According to the complaint, the Board of Directors have allegedly misappropriated Lanka Hospital funds. They have also been accused of taking a hefty commission of Rs. 600 million from the sale proceeds of shares belonging to Harry Jayawardena to an Indian company and allegedly paid only a small percentage to Jayawardena.
Allegations have also been levelled against these Board members for spending lavishly on advertising campaigns although the company could not gain any mileage from these advertising campaigns. They are also accused of paying an exorbitant amount of money to an advertising firm – Triad – for the publicity given to the opening of its laboratory arm – LHD (Lanka Hospitals Diagnostics), recruiting close relatives of the Rajapaksa family for higher salaries, purchasing goods from known parties without calling for tenders and for paying Rs. 15 million to an architect for designing the LHD laboratory.

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