12 July, 2020

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Customs Officials Demand Ransom Of Rs.120 Million – Custom Chief Wijeweera Under Fire

Appalling details of a daylight robbery committed by a group of Customs Officers under the blessings of the Customs Chief Jagath Wijeweera, where two suspects were coerced into paying a ransom worth Rs. 120 million to prevent being detained in remand custody, has now come to light, Colombo Telegraph can exclusively reveal today.

 DGC Jagath Wijeweera

DGC Jagath Wijeweera

The Colombo Chief Magistrate was informed that DGC Wijeweera has permitted the said group of officers to by-pass the Director of Customs in charge of the ICT Directorate to which, the said group of officers in question are attached and the Additional Director General of Customs under whose purview lies the ICT Directorate, to abuse the Customs law as they please to claim Rs. 40 million of misappropriate money among each of them. These officers have been permitted to claim this ill-gotten wealth through a ransom worth Rs. 120 million paid by two suspects in remand custody, who had been threatened with an extension of their duration in remand prison if they failed to make the demanded payment.

It has been reported to the Magistrate that the DGC has colluded with these officers to deceive the Colombo Chief Magistrate in order to keep the two suspects in the remand custody with a plan to induce them to pay the said sum of Rs. 120 million as a penalty.

This case has now been reported to the Bribery and Corruption Commission to be investigated as the officers involved have abused the law to misappropriate about Rs. 40 million each – which should have been credited to the revenue according to the law – thereby committing a violation of Secction 70 of the Bribery Act.

According to the facts submitted in the relevant customs case (ICT/INV/014/2015) two suspects named M H H Anwar and M I A Siddick of Janatha Garments have been produced before the Chief Magistrate Court by the Customs Officers on 13th March 2015. They have alleged that the company in question has abused BOI concessions to import a large volume of fabric (over Rs. 100 million during the first three months of 2015 alone) and released them to the local market, evading the payment of customs levies. The officers have therefore sought Court’s permission to keep the suspects in the remand custody to conduct a ‘proper investigation’.

However, later it had been revealed in Court that the process adopted by the said group of officers was absolutely unlawful and the relevant Customs Regulation issued by the Director General of Customs (DGC) with the concurrence of the Attorney General was produced before the Chief Magistrate. The said Directive issued under Section 127A of the Customs Ordinance (the law that permits suspects to be kept in remand Custody) makes it mandatory for the Head of the respective Directorate to furnish an explicit report to the DGC, who himself should form an opinion and inform the Magistrate, relating on the nature of offence and the involvement of the persons requested to be kept in the remand custody for ‘proper investigation’.

However it has now been revealed that this legal requirement has been completely defied by the officers in question, under the full knowledge of DGC Wijeweera, who has permitted the officers themselves- who also have a financial interest in the case due to the cash reward they are eyeing – to abuse the law as they please and to keep the suspects in the remand custody for the ‘improper purpose of demanding a ransom of Rs. 120 million. This gross abuse has now been reported to the Chief Magistrate, seeking strong case against the Customs Officers for abuse of legal process to facilitate the collection of ransom. It has also been reported to the Corruption Commission for proper investigation.

According to the report sent to the Corruption Commission, suspects involved in this case have been produced before the Court on 13th March 2015 with a request made by the officers themselves (not by the DGC as law required) to keep them in the remand Custody for ‘proper investigation’. Then, on 19th March 2015, in response to a request made by the officers, Court has directed the Prison authorities to produce the two suspects before the Customs ‘for the purpose of recording further statements’.

However, it is reported that the head of the Customs Investigations team, Deputy Director of Customs, A Lankadeva, has abused the law that permitted Customs to keep the two suspects in the remand custody, to coerce the suspects to pay a penalty of Rs. 60 million within a month and thereafter to pay another Rs. 60 million if the suspects wish to be released from the remand custody. Then he himself has conducted the formal customs inquiry against the two suspects on 19th March 2015, which is forbidden by law. Thereafter both suspects have been returned to the custody of the Colombo remand prison.

The following day (20th March 2015) these officers have filed another false report before the Colombo Magistrate Court, informing the ‘customs investigation has been completed and therefore to release the suspects’, which is another absolutely false statement. This report has not mentioned anything concerning the formal customs inquiry conducted by the head of the investigations A Lankadeva, whilst the two suspects were kept in the remand custody, which is completely forbidden by law. In the report sent to Corruption Commission, it is also noted that conducting of a formal Customs Inquiry by the officer who conducted the investigation is also an improper act, which is not permitted by law. In the report it is also alleged that the said officer himself share one third of the penalty recovered from the suspects as ‘cash rewards’ with the other officers, whereas the law requires that in all cases where there is an evasion of payment of fiscal levies, to recover the fiscal levy element unpaid in the first place and to credit the same to the revenue.

Related posts;

Deal Or No Deal: Customs Chief Wijeweera In A Rs.100 Million Defraud Deal?

Exposed: Rajapaksa’s Blood Ivory Robbery: Justice Rohini Lies Internationally

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Latest comments

  • 8
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    @CT

    RE:Customs Officials Demand Ransom Of Rs.120 Million – Custom Chief Wijeweera Under Fire

    How many people were robbed by the Customs people over the past 10 years.

    CT, thank you fir exposing these crooks, and please let JVP know.

    This is pure robbery. Comparable to White Van Robberies, except that there is no killings.

    • 3
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      We all aware that there was serious accusation against Basil who may have made billions worth of ransom for those who employed in various sectors, and those LTTE seniors who were allowed to leave country after paying ransom during previous regime but he was allowed to leave without a question. It is pity that some crooks wants Mahinda regime to come back to complete the ransom work they started.

  • 11
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    Standard procedures adopted by Customs for decades.

    Nothing new!!!

  • 4
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    Quoting the motto of Colombo Telegraph, “In Journalism Truth Is A Process”;
    I believe, it s fair for all the readers out there if an opportunity is given to the Customs to come out and express themselves, defending the allegations made towards them. There may be an area which we do not see here, which is neither shown nor written.
    In law, it is said, “Innocent Until Proven Guilty!”.

    • 3
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      “Innocent Until Proven Guilty!”

      Ayyo IJ please tell us something we do not know. What your agenda anyway?

      • 0
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        He probably is one of the customs officers, who made a fast buck.. monitoring the columns of CT. so he gets a hint of what his next move should be.

        :P

    • 1
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      IJ, You are absolutely right. A mere newsreport, even if it is by CT, cannot be accepted until all evidence is in.

  • 1
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    [Edited out] We are sorry the comment language is English – CT

  • 6
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    Colombo Telegraph, you are doing a great service to the Nation, exposing all the wrong doings. Keep it up. I am sure, others would join me congratulating your publication for a job well done.

  • 3
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    This is self explanatory.

    The Regulation published by the Customs Chief is clear. According to this document (published by Colombo Telegraph) no officer is permitted to abuse the law and remand people without a certificate obtained from the Customs Chief. These officers have cheated the Magistrate for improper purpose.

    The complaint made to the Corruption Commission (also published) exposes the whole thing.

    The Customs Chief should explain. He has permitted the officers to abuse his powers to claim cash rewards in millions by resorting adopt improper means.

    We know there are very serious allegations of sharing cash rewards with officers. The DGC’s inaction only make these allegations plausible.

  • 4
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    No one should be permitted to abuse the law to keep people in the remand custody to induce them to pay exorbitant penalties under duress.

    This is not acceptable by any means.

  • 7
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    No Customs officer earn more than 60,000/- that is the simple truth.

    But they spent hundreds of thousands of rupees per month. In some families 3 to 4 children attend international schools with monthly rental of over 60,000/. per child. From where they get this money.

    Ravi Karunanayake should discipline the Customs service or let someone else to install law and order in the Department.

  • 2
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    There are some greedy fellows who resorts to adopt the lowest level tactics.

    If the importer refuse to accept liability and pay the fine they do’t care they have power to act as they please.

    You can be remanded, Yours shop/stores can be locked and seals and many more. In most cases these tactics works because the trading community cannot stand this pressure and loss of business.

    All this because of the cash reward system. The govt should impose a cap on these rewards to protect the trading community from exploitation.

  • 4
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    40 million cash reward in a single case. What law on earth permit this

    • 1
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      Deshabandhu

      “What law on earth permit this”

      Didn’t you know this? It is the unwritten law of the thrice blessed land.

  • 7
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    To all and the moderator,

    Now there are two parties, Customs and the Suspect!
    So, what has this SUSPECT done! A small crime or a VERY BIG CRIME!

    To the media, are you all appearing for the wrongdoers!!!

    • 1
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      Both are wrong doers.. The suspect has defaulted but the customs being a govt entity cannot be like the suspect… they have set rules and regulation. why is the police there? to maintain order, not to go hand in glove with the wrong doers… BUT it is NOT acceptable to have a suspect in custody n be questioned, IF so ALL the suspect in the former regime MUST and SHOULD be in custody until they are found innocent..

  • 4
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    This is a fantastic detection made by the officers of the Customs and A Lankadeva is a celebrated officer of Customs. He even had to leave the country due to the threats made against him by the smugglers.

    Officers of this nature are an asset to any organization. Customs cannot conduct arbitrary inquiries. The article is full of hearsay and holds no water what so ever.Now that these smugglers have been caught the fabric producers of the country will be thanking the officers.

    The due duties will be recovered for the state.

    Job well done!!!

  • 8
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    Dear Editor
    Just two comments.
    Can you please, please write in proper English the ordinary folks like us can understand. Do not ‘murder the queens language’ as we used to say in the old days.
    Secondly, and more importantly, respect the common sense law if not british law.
    A person ifs innocent until proven guilty.scious campain of trial by media.
    Ordinary people like us want facts , and nothing but facts. You could have reported the mater as Please stop this. You people are an insult to to this country

    • 3
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      “You people are an insult to to this country” and to the profession of journalism for murdering the queens language, filling the investigative journalistic article with heresy, failing to give facts and conducting trial by media.

  • 2
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    Are you certain this a photo of the Customs Chief?. If so god help Sri Lanka. To me he looks like the Crook from whom some customs officials tried to extract Rs 120M ransom. :-)

  • 3
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    It is very clear that most of the comments here are posted by an individual who thoroughly has a jealousy over the Customs and the officers of Customs who are with a financial benefit as rewards.

    We all as humans should understand and empathize this naive behavior.

    And also, about this primitive article, it s not ENGLISH you should focus on but the legitimate facts!

  • 3
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    IJ says
    In law, it is said, “Innocent Until Proven Guilty!”.

    or Is it, “Gulity, unless proven innocent”

    • 0
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      Everybody, especially a Rajapakse or any other alleged criminal knows this too well !! – What matters is the News (scoop) as seen by a jounalists eye.

  • 4
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    ANY PERSON can provide information regarding any violation of Customs Law or any Customs Fraud and get rewarded, sometimes in Millions!!

    The Rewards are there to encourage the Informants……
    Otherwise this country will be like a hell, filled with Heroin, Ethanol, Cigarettes any many more……

    Finally i’d like to say that “there are people who sell any thing to earn money….. even their mother”. A mother cares and grows her child with love. But once the child get mad at money he sells the mother as well!,

    Is it fair that some workers who earnd in millions, are trying to destroy the dignity of the place they worked, for no reason, but for money.

  • 1
    2

    Remanding a person to prison custody when there are reasonable grounds that this person has committed a grave offence under the law, is a function of a magistrate/judge, and serves to prevent evasion of legal process by going into hiding nationally or internationally.
    Section 127A quote above is clear.
    The magistrate should carry out his duty after careful perusal of the facts – he should have recorded evidence from the two accused, and from the customs officers.
    In this case it appears that he may not have done so.

  • 7
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    There was an ex Customs officer who did the same in a very talented manner, who caught red handed and dismissed.Now he takes ransom by appearing a lawyer. :D

    • 0
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      [Edited out]

  • 0
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    Customs department has been corrupt to the core. It’s like winning a lottery to get an appraisers job. Once in, seniors teach the new entrants the way to earn.
    A complete overhaul of the department is the real yahapalanaya. Past decade MARA’s stooges in the cabinet and MPs and their henchmen have made billions and trillions & siphoned Government revenue to those corrupt officials and politicos.

    Order an investigation of highest level. If found guilty, award the highest punishment to deter future attempts to derail due revenue collection.

  • 0
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    There is no ambiguity in our opinion on Lankadeva. [Edited out]

  • 1
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    Every businessman who pick pocketed govt tax shall be dealt with according to law to recover it, with additional penalties if possible.

    But no one can justify Customs Officers pickpocketing the money so recovered from such tax evaders in tens of millions of rupees as cash rewards.

    • 0
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      It is the law! It is the REVENUE which one has defrauded to the COUNTRY. It is called ‘DUE REVENUE’.
      Don’t open your mouth full of JEALOUSLY, smells like ‘GARBAGE’

  • 1
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    According to the facts reported to Corruption Commission (published by CT, the whole process adopted by Lankadeva is purely arbitrary and unlawful.

  • 1
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    Some officers in the Customs allege that Lankadeva owned a A[Edited out]

  • 1
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    One says that due duty would be recovered in this case. What rubbish is this? According to the facts published by CT, Already 60 million ransom have been recovered and another 60 million to be collected as a penalty in one month’s time out of which 1/3 goes to [Edited out] Co. How much 40 million rupees.

  • 1
    0

    Recovery of levies evaded by an importer as a penalty is against the law.

    These moneys should have been recovered as fiscal levies and credited to the revenue.

    Customs Officers cannot pickpocket taxpayers’ money in tens of millions of rupees in this manner.

  • 1
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    No one is entitled to rob taxpayers’ money.

  • 0
    0

    How come Lankadeva be the investigator and the final decision maker and to impose penalties and then share it with the officers.

    This is very serious business and those who are responsible in this money grabbing business should be dealt appropriately.

  • 0
    0

    One can be responsible for evasion of customs duties.

    But there is a law to deal with such people to recover such levies unpaid. No one is permitted to recover the levies defrauded as penalty and share 1/3 of it with the colleagues.

  • 2
    1

    Pettah merchants have first hand experience of Lankadeva.

    He will do anything to recover penalties and share it with the other officers.
    Like in the Janatha Garments case, remanding of suspected businessman, forcing them to agree to pay what he demands is the most favorite tactic adopted by Lankadeva.

    In this case son was remanded and made father to agree to pay 120 million out of which 60 million recovered as ransom from the father to release the son.

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