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

  • 2
    3

    Law applicable for remanding suspects is clear. The law requires the Customs boss to furnish a report to Court. That is only in cases where he is satisfied that keeping a suspect in the remand custody is necessary for proper investigation.

    However, in the case reported by CT, Lankadeva & Co has completely defied the law for improper motive. He has furnished a false report to the Magistrate and had deceived the Court completely.

    Lankadeva himself has conducted the inquiry and after having recovered 60 million penalty from the farther of the man who was remanded, has deceived the Court once again that ‘investigation has been completed and therefore to release the suspect. The does not permit to conduct inquiries whilst keeping the suspects in remand custody.

    This kind of abuses where even the Magistrate has been taken for ride should be dealt with appropriately.

    • 4
      2

      If the practice is to have in remand custody, the suspects, why are not MR,Gota,Basil, Sajin Vas, WW, Mrs WW, Namal, Johnston and others not in remand custody but roaming freely?

      Double Standards?

      RW is responsible for this, he made deals on the night after election and probably made some zillions…

  • 4
    2

    I read this new item very carefully. What appears to me is that by hook or crook Customs men want money.

  • 4
    2

    Customs and port officials! Income disproportionate to the salary is commission, it is not an incentive but legalized bribe. Clearing agents and wharf clerks too connive with them luring weakness for boys girls liquor etc. If put on sale these officials will buy the entire importers of Colombo in their family members’ name. Court cases are dragging, lawyers earn well. If if an order is made lenient without clarity, no evidence etc. The solution is: easing of rules to reduce red tape and allow merchandise while ordering to sieze and destroy ethanol, drugs and weapons if illegal, will there anyone dare to smuggle, then?

  • 4
    1

    Working for a corporate in Colombo, I have personal experience how customs officials intimidate directors of companies threatening them with being taken to remand prison etc. and forcing them to pay the penalties asked of them. Directors who do not want the humiliation of being behind bars agree to such penalties. This is because the customs officials are elible to get a share of the penalties by law. I think this system is extremely flawed and has made customs officials a mafia. It is high time more articles of this nature are published and powers that be, be alerted to the extortion carried out by the Sri Lanka Customs officials- a highly corrupted group.

  • 1
    1

    I believe that the CT readers are well informed about the law applicable in a situation of this nature where the payment of tax is evaded or defrauded.

    The Supreme Court has ruled in TOYOTA LANKA Vs DGC (2009) 1 SLR 278, that in cases where the payment of the government revenue is evaded THE PROPER CAUSE OF ACTION IS TO RECOVER IT AND CREDIT TO THE GOVERNMENT REVENUE and that the law does not permit overzealous actions of REWARD ORIENTED MOTIVATION OF IMPOSING PENALTIES

  • 3
    1

    So, Customs do not seem to change their customs, after all !!!

    No matter what Governments, Ministers change from time to time.
    What a pity for a country.

    Despite all the verbal rhetoric by various Presidents/Ministers etc.; will Sri Lanka ever see the meaning of true “Yahapalanaya”.

    It is a well known fact, not just news that Custom officers are milking the system and the country and earn unprecedented amounts of money.

    But who has been able to go after them at all?

    Has our General Ranatunga any been effective?

    Disgruntled citizen

  • 2
    1

    No contraband can arrive here, including ethanol and heroin, without the knowledge of the Customs men.

    Some corrupt officers have paid heavy penalty for committing this social crime. There are reported cases where their houses are burnt down by their own children and driver runs away with the wife.

  • 4
    1

    Who is the man did all what he could to release the Ivory container confiscated by Customs.

    Customs Bio Diversity Head, Samantha Gunasekara, a well respected officer, did everything to stop this wrongdoing and he was subjected to sustained persecution until his retirement

  • 3
    1

    The truth is that corrupt customs, excise and Inland Revenue men pilfer probably more than 50% of government revenue.

    The govt is equally corrupt. It is sad to see that a accused charged in a foreign exchange fraud before the High Court is appointed to run the finance ministry. Naturally, the lawlessness is bound to continue.

  • 2
    1

    In another similar case , where the Chief Magistrate found that Customs officers have abused the legal process to keep a suspect in the remand custody demanding a heavy penalty payment, ordered immediate release of the suspect from the remand custody with a stern warning given to the officers involved in the case.

  • 6
    1

    Its an open secret of the corruption of the customs (dis)service. Rather than going behind some poor air force personal the bribery net should be cast on these people. This is long overdue. They should be investigated how customs officers could afford luxury cars, houses, lands (some even in the names of their siblings)foreign trips with the income they get legally.
    Hope they do this and also make provisions to rotate these officers to other govt. departments and vise verse.

  • 3
    1

    According to the Wade’s newest edition of Administrative Law (2015 Edition) what Mr Lankadeva doing is permitted by Law.

    It permits one and the same person to be the investigator, judge and the beneficiary. So there is nothing wrong in what he is doing.

  • 3
    1

    The customs department and corruption have been conjoined twins since a formal customs service was established by the British. Of course the number of zeros have increased in the numbers involved with the sort of progress we have made as a country.
    An anecdote with a lesson:

    While walking past the Wellawatte police station as a chikd holding my grandmother’s hand, we saw a drunkard sprawled on the pavement. She recognised the man as the son of a retired senior customs officer- incidentally a Tamil-who was well known to be a heavy bribe taker. She even mentioned a name, which I have now forgotten. Her cryptic remark that children have to ultimately pay the price for the sins of their parents, is etched in my mind. It was lesson that has stayed with me into my old age.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 4
      1

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

      Sri Lanka Customs Department is not the exception. Every state institution compete for the top place in corruption league.

      I am told pension arrears have been withheld by pension department from persons living abroad. Some pensioners have given up hope of receiving what is legally due to them after many years of writing letters to the the department, including the directors. As a norm the department has never responded to them.

      One person (85 years old) whom I know is owed at least, Rs 500,000 in pension arrears.

      Whether this amount has been stolen from the pension fund or the clerk who is dealing with the subject is awaiting a hefty bribe, or simply lazy no one knows.

      Even if the government passes freedom of information act one may not be able to access information from state departments unless one bribes them or use network to get things done.

  • 0
    0

    [Edited out]

  • 0
    3

    I know both Mr Kodituwakku and Mr Lankadeva.

    I must say that all Mr Lanakdeva’s actions are motivated by monitory considerations. This is what the Supreme Court also has said about this kind of officers.

    However, the truth is that the Customs Department has produced so many honest and respectable officers.

    Because of Mr Lankadeva’s unacceptable behaviour and conduct the good name of the entire Department is being tarnished.

  • 0
    0

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

  • 2
    1

    well done CT in exposing crooks one by one

    its seems from the comments that many people writing here are feeling jittery and scared hence scolding CT and defending crooks,after all birds of a feather flock together

  • 0
    1

    It is true that Customs service has produced some respectable public officers.

    It is sad that because of money hungry one individual the good emage of the entire department is tarnished.

  • 2
    0

    We completely reject abusing legal process to remand trading community to extort money in this manner.

  • 0
    1

    There are so many good hearted service oriented officers in the Customs service.

    It is extremely disheartening that bad conduct of one individual has brought disrepute to all of them.

  • 1
    1

    May be he thinks that collecting over 10 million rupees reward money from the penalties (which should have been recovered as defaulted tax and credited to revenue) would bring happiness. This is tax revenue/public funds should have been credited to the consolidated fund to be used for public services.

    It is sadly mistaken if this officer thinks that this illl-gotten wealth will bring his family some healt wealth and happyness.

  • 1
    1

    In our view reward oriented work of some in the Department is an insult and shame to all the officers in the Customs.

  • 3
    0

    Everyone should abide by the law, from top to bottom!
    It is very clear that the party who has published this has some kind of envy towards Customs and it s officers!
    Now, who is the grieved party! The Suspect? The Customs? Or The Defense Counsel?
    And who is KODITUWAKKU?
    By reading through the comments it seems that the person named ‘KODITUWAKKU’ is the suspect!

  • 0
    1

    Throw this wijeweera [Edited out]

  • 0
    0

    AIYO!!! [Edited out]
    What goes around comes around!!!

  • 0
    1

    The Company I represented (Naveen ceramics) did not know that duty evations should be repaid as duty. Mr Lankadeva sealed our ourstores and forced us to pay 40 million as a penalty.

    Now only we realised he has pocketed over 10 million from this.

    • 1
      0

      Naveen has intentionally under declared the value of the imported goods and transferred the balance by means of HAVALA.

      Naveen is lucky to get away with a forfeiture, if not, he should be in jail right now.

      FYI, the forfeiture was 20 million, know your facts before posting!

      And have you got any envy towards the officers taking rewards, go informant of the parliament and make your submission!

      Sniff the places you feel like sniffing!

  • 0
    1

    He did the same with our Company, Ranjana’s ceramics. He sealed our stores and forcibly recovered 20 million from us as penalty. Not a single cent removed as a duty under paid from us.Till then our stores were kept under seal.

  • 0
    1

    This man’s conduct is a disgrace to Customs Department. He knows his responsibility under law and that he should recover the duty defrauded in the first place.

    Our company (Siyapatha Finance) was charged for under payment of customs levies by this officer and He himself conducted the inquiry. We force to pay under pressure to pay a penalty of 60 million Rupees as a penalty, not a single cent was recovered as duty.

  • 0
    0

    He is a shrewd man. He get his officers to collect the cash reward for him and then get it from them.

    On paper he is not the one who collected the reward.

    Let Corruption Commission dig into this massive scam and take necessary action.

  • 0
    0

    Corruption Commission should publish an advert and call for information from the Business community and I’m sure they will provide details of most cases. Probably over a billion or more of penalties recovered by this Officer with no recovery of tax at all.

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