Who’s oiling Nawala Ramani’s wheels?
Probe on biggest vehicle scam exposes high-level political and police connections
By Santhush Fernando
When a large number of vehicle owners went to Police stations to complain about loss of vehicles and non payment of rentals by a rent-a-cab service, little did they know that the very police stations they complained to were allegedly operating wheels within wheels in Sri Lanka’s biggest vehicle scam.
The Fort Police Intelligence Unit which busted the Nawala rent-a-car racket, launched a probe after owners who lost their vehicles and lodged complaints with police stations found something was mysteriously going in reverse gear. Further investigations revealed how the law enforcement system was entangled with vehicle mafias, detectives said.

Probing deeper and dismantling the vehicle mafia, the detectives found that police officers including high rankers at Welikada, Mirihana and Mount Lavinia were involved in various ways.

Some 39 complaints in this vehicle scam had come from Welikada and nine from Mirihana while police officers from Mount Lavinia and Peliyagoda were even alleged to have used cars given by the racketeers free of charge.
Vehicle owners are, however, not satisfied with the probe. They believe that a powerful politician in Colombo along with other higher level police officers, including an SSP, are involved directly in the huge racket and the cover-up process.

The alleged mastermind, Ramani Pradipika Nanayakkara is now in remand and her wheeler-dealing Blue Diamond Travels and Tours is accused of raking in as much as Rs. 14 million by playing around with vehicles to the value of a stunning Rs. 88 million.

The 39-year-old woman from Nawala is alleged to have sold 61 of the 171 rented vehicles at prices very much lower than their market rates. Strangely the woman had faced similar charges earlier but somehow the cases were dropped and it is alleged that high-level political and police influence was used to run over the cases.

The woman is known to have had a ring of operatives with links to a powerful politician and these middlemen sold the vehicles to gullible buyers. The manager of the cab service is alleged to have links to a controversial Deputy Minister.

The woman is known to be separated from her planter husband Pathmasiri Nanayakkara, but he, too, has disappeared after the scam was exposed, police said.

According to evidence, Ramani Nanayakkara had earlier operated from Mount Lavinia, where she had rented a house at No. 11/1, D. J. Wijesiriwardene Mawatha but as cases and complaints piled up against her, she shifted to 1A, Temple Road, Nawala.

Then Mount Lavinia OIC and the Welikada OIC put most of the complaints in the boot because they too were benefiting from the racket and freely using the woman’s ill-gotten vehicles, investigations have revealed. Both the officers have been questioned by the police.

When an SSP of Mirihana launched a full-scale probe, it is alleged that two lawyers representing Ms. Nanayakkara had warned they would file a fundamental rights or defamation petition against him. More mysteriously, some police officers are also accused of having intimate relationship with the suspect.

Evidence of this was seen when a police officer in civvies appeared with the suspect when an inquiry was held at another police station.It is also alleged that some court documents were tampered with, one instance being the alteration of the rental of Rs. 28,000 to Rs. 2,800 of a complainant in the Mount Lavinia Police.

Fort Intelligence Inspector Lakshman Silva said the busting of the big racket in Nawala had apparently stalled the operations of other vehicle robbery gangs and they were known to be trying various ruses now with their vehicles.
Such reports were received from Piliyandala, Mirihana and Kosgama.

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