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

  • 1
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    Permitting Customs men to share 1/3 of the penalties recovered as a cash reward is completely unacceptable. Tax if defrauded shall be recovered as tax and should credited to the revenue. I believe that is what the Law Book says. The Customs Chief should know what the law says in the first place.

    This is a good case for the Finance Minister to pay attention.

  • 0
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    Govt must older information about all cases where penalty was recovered by Customs men with no duty been recovered and shared amongst them.

    Clearly this is a well organised financial crime under the guise of law enforcement.

    All these public funds misappropriated by Customs men must be recovered, they should be made to pay back and credited to the revenue.

  • 1
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    Ranjanas has intentionally under declared the value of the imported goods and transferred the balance by means of HAVALA.

    Ranjanas 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

    This fraudulent practice Is more serious than taking bribes.

    Abusing the law and the power of the Magistrate to facilitate Customs men (keeping the suspects in remand custody until agreed to pay penalties) and then share it amongst them as white money cannot be excused by any means.

    Surely this organised crime is much worse than taking bribes.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
    1

    Customs chief should be held answerable for permitting the Customs men to bypass Supreme Court Ruling given in Toyota Lanka Case. It says that in all cases where payment of levies are evaded or payment defrauded, first and foremost such levies so defrauded, evaded or under-paid shall be recovered.

    The Court Ruling is very clear it says that revovery of such payments as penalties and sharing 1/3 of it amongst the officers as rewards is manifestly unlawful.

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 1
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    The government MUST take steps NOT to entertain lawyers appearing on behalf of state revenue frauds.

    I know both Mr Lankadeva and Kodituwakku(AAL), and I can guarantee that Mr Lankadeva does not take such illicit step.

    This case was heard today at the Colombo Magistrate Court and the accused party has openly rejected Kodituwakku(AAL) appearing on behalf of him.

    Now everyone knows who appears for whom and what!

  • 0
    1

    It is sad that some officers in the Customs thinks that people should appreciate that penalising of the importers who defraud revenue and recovery of penalties from them is done in the National Interest.

    People will surely appreciate if the Customs officers appropriately deal with the tax defaulters and recover the tax revenue that is badly required by the Government.

    Officers in the Customs should know that Sri Lanka is a poor Nation with a large section of the nation cannot afford a meal a day.

    In that background no one can justify single officer claiming 10s of millions of public funds as cash reward by resorting to unlawful means.

    • 1
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      Mr Wijesinghe

      You ve wasted nearly an hour of your life to read this article, read through the comments and write yours.

      Had you gone out you could have helped a poor kid you ve mentioned.

      True, I say what you have mentioned.
      Jealousy, I say what you have towards Customs.

  • 0
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    According to the information published in this Article this matter has been already reported to the Corruption Commission for proper inquiry, and the law take its own motion.

    People know the Colombo Telgraph take right measures before exposing corruption and we always respect Colombo Telegraph for its uncompromising stand taken in the interest of the people of Sri Lanka.

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

  • 0
    1

    I think people should not be denied the truth.

    I am a lawyer and I was in the Court House today.(Court No 6)

    Mr Kodituwakku did not represent the suspect in the Court today and he clearly informed that to the Court at the very beginning.

    He attended Court today because the Court reserved it’s order for today, that is whether Court will permits the Customs to keep the suspect any further in remand Custody.

    Customs Officers already under fire informed the Court that ‘their Investigation was over’ probably after getting suspect’s consent to pay the penalty they demanded, and so the Court release suspect from Remand.

    I observed the motion filed in Court by Mr Kodituwakku on 02nd April 2015. It clearly states that Customs Officers whose abuses were reported to the Corrption Commisonby Mr Kodituwakku, have warned the suspect not to retain the services of Mr Kodituwakku and if he does so they will keep him in the Custody further.

    In this background on the client’s instructions Mr Kodituwaaku has informed Court in the motion filed that he is not representing suspect any more.

    • 0
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      [Edited out]
      @Mammapperuma, our internal audit shows that you are using multiple names, please use one – CT

  • 0
    0

    “No lawyer should appear against Customs and officers should be permitted to extort money from suspects as they please and share the same amongst them as cash rewards.”

    Good thinking, and I believe that the Govt should take serious note of this advice.

  • 1
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    N P R,

    Thank you for accepting extortion of money from Ranjana’s.

    Sorry as you said the penalty screwed from Ranjana’s should be read as 40 million not 20 million. Once again Thank you for the information for correction.

  • 0
    1

    Enough is enough… I followed this issue for sometime now. Mr. Lankadeva, you must immediately put a stop to this abuse. You are simply ruining the good name of our dept. few of your fellow officers at the ICT directorate who gets peanuts from you, may think that you are a great officer. but you should know that have already destroyed peoples trust and confidence placed in our dept.

    • 1
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      Yeah! Right! No Mr Lankadeva is the culprit! And he destroys the image of Customs!
      ONLY because of him most of Customs staff can proudly say that they belong to CUSTOMS!

      Can you mention at least one detection made by you! Just one! At least a ‘pan parag’ detection! None, right!

      Go in front of a mirror, you see the BIGGEST culprit, the BIGGEST MISTAKE Customs has ever done!

  • 0
    1

    Govt must initiate a thorough investigation into this abuse. What they rob is tax payers money.

  • 1
    1

    This exposure is ca good opportunity to appoint a commission of inquiry into the affairs of the Customs Department.

    The Customs Chief shall be held responsible for his inaction. He should know that law does not permit this kind of organised abuses for unjust enrichment by robbing public funds.

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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  • 1
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    I think on behalf of the honest officers in the Department that is in the minority, who are at the receiving end because of these exposures, I should let the people the exact truth about the Customs. This is done purely to protect our good name and not with malice to any.

    Strictly speaking there is no difference of the honest officers in the customs and the similar officers in the other govt departments. There are many officers in the Customs (some in the senior management) who cannot even afford to buy a car with the tax-free permit they are entitled to. Even today such officers commute to work by public transport (bus and train), this is absolutely true and you can verify this.

    However, I should admit that most of the allegations made against the Customs are well founded. The majority of the officers, who too get the same salary like ours, commute to work in luxury cars such a BMWs. Any one visit the Customs Car Park will realize the truth.

    No one in the service can enjoy a luxury life with this meager salary but the majority have made hundreds of millions, by resorting to adopt two methods.

    One Group manipulate the law and abuse it to their advantage to earn millions of ‘white money’ with hundreds of millions of penalties imposed on the trading community that habitually violates the Customs law and defraud public funds (The group that Mr Lankadeva belongs). DGC is fully aware what these officers are doing is absolutely unlawful. Unfortunately it seems he is powerless.

    Other group, (the majority of the officers belongs), colludes with the tax defaulters and they also make millions, (called black money) and both reach the same goal.

    However, no one can deny the truth that both groups deprive public funds probably in billions.

    I’m sorry I did not want to tell this in public, however, since I am hurt very much with the conduct of Mr Lankadeva, I’m forced to say this in public to protect the interests of the minority, who too get the bad name for no wrong committed by them.

    We know that we the public officers are under duty to perform our job according to law, which we do under trying circumstance. Therefore defending the interests of this minority, the honest officers, I should say that dishonest and fraudulent conduct of both groups have caused a tremendous damage and brought Customs Department to disrepute in the eyes of the people.

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  • 0
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    Yes, we have impose penalties and share it amongst us. We argue that is lawful and challenge anybody to take us to any court and we are ready to defend ourselves.

  • 0
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    More than one DGC was removed because of [Edited out] of Mr Lankadeva. DGC Wijeweera is likely to be the next casualty.

  • 0
    1

    DGC Mr Wijeweera, you must take full responsibility for the lawlessness in the whole Department, particularly for all this damaging exposures of ‘insider dealings’ in the media. It is you who promoted Mr Lankadeva to behave ruthlessly, defying all norms and laws just for his own advantage.

    You cannot get away from the blunder you have committed. You permitted him to behave as he pleased, permitting him to defy his superior officers. His Director and the ADGC have been made redundant because of your gross negligence.

    You made the whole department suffer for your incompetence. You should have known that the law does not permit the same person to be the Investigator, Judge and the Beneficiary of the cash rewards. This is what Mr Lankadeva exactly did which you condone. Arresting and remanding of suspects for the sole purpose of exploiting them under threat to have their consent to pay heavy penalties is clearly tantamount to gross abuse of power, which you should have known.

    It is very unfortunate but it is very likely that you pay a heavy penalty for your stupidity.

    • 1
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      Seems someone’s really hurt!

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