Minister Sarath Amunugama came to Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardena’s rescue this week, when he came to his defence and fired out against the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) for soft peddling cases against big time culprits, and instead trying to take on politicians with minor accusations.
During the weekly cabinet meeting, Amunugama who is the Minister of Special Assignments said he opposed any investigation against Gunawardena, on grounds that he was a respected politician known for his integrity. Amunugama had also criticized the FCID for questioning Gunawardena, on some financial transactions that took place at the National Water Supply and Drainage Board, when he was the subject minister during the government under President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Amunugama had pointed out that if there was a discrepancy in financial transactions at the water board, and then it was not the ex-subject minister who should be questioned but instead the FCID should have questioned the officials at the water board in charge of the financial transaction.
Amunugama had expressed his disgust in the manner in which the FCID has been conducting itself, by its sluggish attitude in probing big wig criminals with far more serious offences, but instead was trying to make life difficult for others, such as Gunawardena, with very minor accusations against multi billion rupee frauds committed by some other.
Many probes commenced by the FCID in 2015 continue to be in limbo, with no action being taken against culprits despite evidence of serious financial misconduct by top politicians and even bureaucrats during the previous regime. However in May, the FCID accused the Attorney General of adopting a sluggish attitude in directing the division on how to proceed with certain vital cases concerning former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his associates.
According to highly placed sources closely connected to the FCID, apart from coming under pressure from powerful quarters, the FCID is also compelled to ‘sit and wait’ because despite referring certain cases to the AG, they were yet to receive instructions on how to proceed. Chief among these cases is the investigation into the purchase of the Mariott Hotel in Dubai by Nandana Lokuwithana, a close associate of Rajapaksa’s. “Due to the Attorney General’s delay, even the FCID is unable to take any action,” sources said. In recent months, Lokuwithana has become a close associate of a top minister in the Maithripala Sirisena – Ranil Wickremesinghe government. “This association can also be one reason why no action is being taken against him,” a source told the Colombo Telegraph in May.