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Interdiction of four cops over alleged assault: CI asks why Police Legal Division won’t represent them

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…finds fault with Inspectors’ Association, too

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Chief Inspector Linton de Silva yesterday (5) questioned the rationale in law enforcement officers interdicted over unsubstantiated accusations being deprived of assistance through the Police Legal Division.

The veteran investigator said that he was struggling to meet legal costs after he was interdicted along with three police constables on February 26, within 24 hours after a law student Migara Gunaratne accused them of assaulting him at the Kelaniya Divisional Criminal Investigation Detective Bureau located at the Peliyagoda police station.

CI de Silva also questioned how the Inspectors’ Association turned a blind eye to the plight of him and the three constables interdicted without an inquiry.

“We were denied a fair inquiry. I’m quite ashamed of the way the police reacted to unfounded accusations,” De Silva said, underscoring the need to review the entire process.

Responding to another query, the officer said that he believed the Public Security Ministry would take tangible measures in that regard.

The officer also said that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), should inquire into the case as Migara Gunaratne entered the police station identifying himself as an attorney-at-law though he was only a final year law student.

Acknowledging that there was a spate of accusations in respect of the police conduct, the investigator emphasized those being accused, too, should receive a fair hearing.

The CCD took over the controversial investigation from the SIU amidst accusations the policemen hadn’t been treated justly.

The officer emphasized that by preventing them from seeking assistance from the Police Legal Division their Department found them guilty before the conclusion of the ongoing proceedings at the Magistrate’s court (no 05) at Hulftsdorp.

 According to statements recorded by the police inquiring into the incident at the Peliyagoda police station, the special unit led by CI de Silva had arrested eight persons wanted for cheating people. The arrested included four Nigerians, two Uzbekistan women and a local couple. Having obtained Detention Orders in respect of the eight, the investigators acting on the information obtained from those detained, on Feb 25 arrested three others. Their arrests led to the recovery of over Rs. 8 mn whereas investigations revealed the existence of a covert operation that facilitated the transferring of money collected here through illegitimate means to Dubai. Of the recovered money, over Rs 7.5 mn had been hidden in the ceiling. The police identified a Canada based person who played a major role in the operation.

 Since the interdiction of four policemen, those arrested on Feb 25th along with money had been given bail.

 CI de Silva said that the gang had duped gullible persons using social media platforms. Attorney-at-law Charitha Gunaratne had visited the Peliyagoda police station with the wife and two children of one of the suspects arrested on March 23. The lawyer’s brother, Migara, despite only being a final year law student had arrived there subsequently identifying himself as an attorney-at-law.

 CI de Silva has told investigators that he rushed to the Duty Officer’s room after hearing loud noises. Duty Officer, a Sub Inspector has alleged that Migara Gunaratne handed over his hand phone to one of the Uzbek women in custody and when CI de Silva inquired why he did so and demanded that he hands over the phone immediately, the law student pushed the officer. The officers present therein had exercised their right to use force to arrest the suspect and recover the phone.

The police later produced Migara Gunaratne before Judicial medical Officer, Ragama who after having examined the law student stated that he suffered minor injury.

CI de Silva alleged that subsequently, Migara Gunaratne posted a picture of himself with a quite serious looking injury on his face. However, before the law student accompanied by police left for Ragama Hospital, a policeman had taken a picture with minor injury on his face, CI de Silva said.

Having followed proper procedures in bringing the situation to relevant authorities, the four interdicted police officers are awaiting the outcome of the investigations.

In respect of three constables, Kelaniya ASP (1) can decide to reinstate them whereas the decision on the CI rests on Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon, in charge of the Western Province.

CI de Silva has initiated the investigation following instructions received from SSP Roshan Dias. SSP Dias has ordered an investigation after a young couple duped by a person to the tune of Rs. 1.4 mn after promising them USD 80,000 from a foreign party. The arrest of four Nigerians and two Uzbek women followed leading to the arrest of three more influential persons on Feb 23 and 25, respectively.



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COPA questions lion’s share of fines going to Customs

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Irregularities, lapses, corruption erode public finance

By Shamindra Ferdinando

 The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) has summoned the Inland Revenue Department tomorrow (23) for an inquiry regarding the inordinate delay in collecting taxes amounting to billions of rupees and extraordinary payments made to the officers of the Customs Department out of fines imposed on both public and private sector enterprises.

Besides, a COPA sub-committee is inquiring into revenue losses suffered over the years as a result of releasing vehicles imported for special purposes as dual-purpose vehicles. 

SLPP MP Prof. Tissa Vitharana heads the all-party watchdog committee. 

Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake in a statement issued on April 19 through the Communication Department of the Parliament said that Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and COPA summoned four enterprises. COPE called the Sri Lanka Football Federation and the National Film Corporation on April 22 and 23, respectively. The COPA summoned the Wildlife Conservation Department and the Inland Revenue on April 21 and April 23, respectively, Dasanayake said.

COPA has fixed the meeting in the wake of disclosure of major shortcomings in the overall revenue collection process. Following COPA meeting Inland Revenue Chief H.M.C. Bandara on March 10, the watchdog committee called for accelerated measures to recover dues. The COPA pointed out that out of Rs 107 bn due to the government, only Rs 224 mn had been recovered so far, immediate measures were required to collect taxes and fines.

At the same meeting, the COPA, having questioned the correctness of a list containing tax defaulters furnished by the Inland Revenue Department, emphasized the pivotal importance of rectifying the shortcomings. The COPA also raised the practicability in recovering taxes in terms of the data provided by ‘Legacy’ and ‘RAMIS’ computer systems. 

The Inland Revenue Commissioner General lamented before COPA how inordinate delay in legal proceedings thwarted their efforts to recover taxes. The COPA assured that the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry would be summoned for a meeting along with the Inland Revenue Department to explore ways and means of overcoming the issue at hand.

At a subsequent COPA meeting held late March, it was revealed that in addition to their failure to recover taxes amounting to Rs 2,670 mn due from casinos, the Inland Revenue received 6,878 dishonored cheques to the tune of Rs 2,451,465,383. COPA members present on this occasion included Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Tissa Attanayake, Mohamed Muzammil, Niroshan Perera, Dr. Upul Galapatti, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Cader Mastan, S. Sritharan and Weerasumana Weerasinha.

That particular meeting was also told that the amount of collectable taxes in terms of the ‘Default Taxes (Special Provisions) Act No 16 of 2010 (certified on Dec 07, 2010) amounted to a staggering Rs 144.5 bn. 

COPA and the Consultative Committee on Ports and Shipping had also taken up on March 9 and 24 the highly contentious issue of the Customs officers taking a big share of fines imposed on tax defaulters, both public and private sector. COPA pointed out that the Customs took advantage of the provision that 50 per cent of the fines imposed on defaulters were shared among those involved in a particular detection. COPA has discussed two specific issues in this regard. COPA pointed out that the allocation of 50 per cent of a fine received from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) for defaulting in respect of gantry cranes to Customs officers was a major problem. COPA focused on taking necessary measures in this regard after having discussed the matter with relevant authorities, including the Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle.

COPA pointed out how out of Rs 205 mn fine imposed on Lanka Coal Company (Pvt) Limited for defrauding taxes, Rs 102.5 mn (50 per cent of the total amount) had been distributed among Customs officers as rewards and Rs 41 mn for their welfare (20 per cent) thereby leaving the government with only Rs 61.5 mn. COPA has directed Treasury Secretary Attygalle to conduct a fresh inquiry into this and take tangible measures to prevent similar malpractices in the future.

COPA investigations have also revealed massive racket in the registration of ‘dual purpose’ vehicles. It revealed that as a result of corrupt elements since 2013 registering vehicles imported for special purposes as ‘dual purpose’ vehicles the Treasury lost taxes amounting to Rs 220 mn.

In addition to that the Treasury had been also deprived of taxes amounting to Rs 1.300 mn by not imposing Rs 3 mn each on 443 special vans brought to the country during 2010-2019 period.

COPA also stated that the Customs perpetrated another massive fraud by allowing the import of 10 vans and 414 lorries as special purpose vehicles during 2010-2014.

COPA reported the Customs imposing Rs 1.5 mn tax on a super luxury car instead of legitimate Rs 56 mn.

It revealed the loss of revenue to the tune of Rs 6.1 bn during 2013-2016 period due to the Customs adopting wrong procedure in respect of large quantities of palm oil imports by two enterprises. The watchdog committee has instructed the Customs to expedite measures to recover the dues from those companies.

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India reiterates commitment to Sri Lanka’s security

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India has reiterated her support for Sri Lanka’s fight against terrorism. The assurance was made on the second anniversary of 2019 Easter Sunday attacks. The following is the text of statement issued by the Indian High Commission yesterday: “High Commissioner Gopal Baglay attended the solemn ceremony at St. Anthony’s Church on 21 April 2021 to mark the second anniversary of the dastardly Easter Sunday attacks. He lit a candle in memory of the victims of the attack and prayed for the recovery of those who are still suffering from its aftermath.

“It may be recalled that the High Commissioner had paid homage to the victims at the Church also on 23 May 2020, the first day after the completion of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, subsequent to his arrival to Sri Lanka on 8 May 2020 on a special flight carrying a gift consignment of essential medical supplies from India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also paid his respects at the Church during the solidarity visit to Sri Lanka in June 2019.

“St. Anthony’s Church was one of the multiple targets of the Easter Sunday attacks, which also took away the lives of 10 Indians. These Indian victims fell prey to the perpetrators at Shangri-la, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand Hotels.  

India and Sri Lanka cooperate closely in all aspects across the security spectrum. India stands firmly with the people and Government of Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism and also collaborate on curbing various other illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, narcotics, etc. “

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Explosive cargo: Ship carrying compound used for enrichment of uranium asked to leave H’tota port

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A ship that made an emergency call at the Hambantota International Port on Tuesday night (20) carrying Uranium hexafluoridea–a compound used in the process of enriching uranium, which produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons–has been asked to leave.

Chandula Rambukwella, Senior Manager, Commercial & Marketing, Hambantota International Port, issued the following statement yesterday: “M.V. BBC Naples sailing under the flag of “Antigua & Barbados” entered the port of Hambantota on 20th April at 2100 hrs, while en route from Rotterdam to China. The ship made an emergency call at the port for some urgent repairs. Agents for the vessel in Sri Lanka, Ms. Barwil Meridian Navigation, had not declared to the port authorities that there was dangerous cargo on board, prior to the vessel entering the port.

It was later found that they were carrying a cargo of Uranium Hexafluoride via investigations made by the Sri Lanka Navy and the Port Authority. The vessel was required to leave the port no sooner the facts were verified.

The SLPA, Navy, and Customs officials had approved all the necessary documentation prior to berthing of the vessel, based on the declaration made by the agent. The Navy and Customs were present at all times to ensure that there wasn’t any cargo unloaded onto the Hambantota International Port premises.”

 

 

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