Rs. 450 million bribery bombshell involving minister

A Bribery and Corruption Commissioner allegedly told the police officer investigating a charge against a minister, with undeclared assets of Rs. 450 million, to conduct the inquiry in a manner so that the case could be wrapped up at his level as the minister concerned “had a future,” according to a sworn affidavit to the Supreme Court.

The affidavit has been given by Chief Inspector S.A. Weerasinghe, who is the officer-in-charge of the Investigations Unit of the Commission. His affidavit was part of the fundamental rights application filed by two police officers who were transferred from the Bribery Commission last month while they were investigating the allegations against the minister.

One of the petitioners, Inspector Nihal Amarasiri, has been transferred to the Vavuniya division and deployed in a bunker on the Mannar-Vavuniya Road while the second petitioner Inspector K.A. Sujatha Kumari has been transferred to Police Headquarters.

Chief Inspector Weerasinghe claimed Inspector Amarasiri who was conducting investigations into several important cases had been summoned by Commissioner Indra de Silva, a former IGP and asked to wrap up the case at his level. Inspector Amarasiri had not responded but shown his displeasure by his facial expression and left the room, he said.

Shortly after this incident, Inspector Amarasiri was summoned by the commission’s Investigations Director Neville Guruge and asked about the matter. When Inspector Amarasiri explained what had taken place, Mr. Guruge had told him not to cerate any misunderstanding with Commissioner de Silva adding that, “he is the only one who is always on our side”.

The two petitioners say they have unblemished records in the Police Department with Inspector Amarasiri having received six commendation during his service since joining the force in 1985.
Their sudden transfers had taken place while they were serving in the assets unit and investigating several complaints against the minister concerned.

The petitioners’ lawyers said the minister had not been named in the petition because of the oath of secrecy that officers of the Commission had to maintain.

The investigations on the minister’s assets were started by Investigation Officer (IO) C.A. Premashantha who was suddenly transferred in November last year. His transfer was suspended by an interim order of the Supreme Court but he is yet to be reassigned for assets inquires.The case against the minister was then handled by Inspector Amarasiri with Inspector Sujatha Kumari being in charge of the files. They also recorded evidence from several persons.

In May this year, Inspector Amarasiri submitted an interim report to Director Guruge saying the minister had not declared his assets and the investigation so far had revealed wealth of nearly Rs. 450 million.
The minister was summoned twice to the Bribery Commission but on both occasions had sought further time and failed to appear before the Commission to record a statement.

Inspector Amarasiri says that last month, he was summoned by Commissioner de Silva and asked if he was handling the minister’s case. When he said yes, he was told by this Commissioner that the minister had called him several times and asked whether Inspector Amarasiri could end the investigation at his level adding that the Minister was one who had a future.

The petitioners state that there was no other person in the room when the conversation took place.
Later Inspector Amarasiri was summoned by Director Guruge who asked him to do as the Commissioner had said adding that “he (Commissioner de Silva) will always be on your side.”

There was no one present when this conversation also took place, Inspector Amarasiri said. The Inspector said he later met Chief Inspector Weerasinghe of the Assets Division and informed him of the conversations with the Commissioner and the Director.

The petitioner said the file on the minister’s case came exclusively under Commissioner P. Edussuriya and the practice was that matters relating to a specific investigation would be discussed only by the relevant commissioner under whose purview such investigation came.

The petitioners sought an order from the Court to call for file Nos BC/441/ 2005, BC/1134/2006 and BC1947/2006 for the Court’s perusal as the police officers were bound to maintain secrecy. The petitioners said that through the Acting Director General of the Bribery Commission, the minister had been summoned to appear again on September 13.

To their surprise, on July 31, they had received a message from the IGP, transferring them. The petitioners alleged their transfers had been ordered mala fide and to discontinue the investigation against the minister. The charged that the commissioner de Silva, Director Guruge and other respondents had acted with dishonest intent and in collusion with the minister.

They said the transfers constituted an infringement of their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 12 (1) of the Constitution.While seeking leave to appeal, the petitioners have asked the court to declare their fundamental rights have been violated by the respondents and to declare their transfers as null and void.

They also sought an order reassigning them to their posts in the Bribery Commission.

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