By Ashley de Vos –
48/57 (54 part) Epitamulla Road. Presently 128/5 Ediriweera Sarachchandra Mawatha, Kotte.
On joining the prestigious brotherhood of the legal profession in Sri Lanka, an Attorney at Law has certain obligations and responsibilities to their clients and the country. As Dr ARB Amarasinghe in his book “Professional Ethics and Responsibilities of Lawyers” points out, “a lawyer has many obligations. He has a duty to the client, to the court and to other tribunals and bodies. As an officer of the court, he must act with honesty, integrity and candour. Any duties or directions made by the court must be fulfilled, including any matter regarding which he has given an undertaking to court. His foremost duties to his clients require him to act with due skill and diligence and reasonable swiftness and courtesy while maintaining his clients’ confidence and avoiding conflict of interests. A lawyer has an obligation to demonstrate ethical practice to the public, including his peers.”
In 1979, I designed a house for Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra at Epitamulla Road, Pitta Kotte. During this process, he informed me that there was land available for sale on the opposite side of the road. As I had been looking for suitable land, I ventured to buy it. I could not afford to build at the time but constructed a retaining wall and fence along the boundary to secure it. Even though I visited off and on, nothing was built on the land. The neighbours are excellent and kind enough to take care of the property. All these years, we did not have any problem. Our neighbours have been exceptional, and we thank them for their effort.
In 2016, my daughter was interested in constructing a house and was looking for land. I offered her the land at Epitamulla Road. As she was interested, I proceeded to install a proper gate and redid the boundary fence that had deteriorated. I gifted the land to my daughter; A young, efficient Attorney prepared the deeds on behalf of my daughter with life interest on the property retained in my name as a precautionary measure. It also helped to maintain the pedigree of the land from the original purchase. I proceeded to the Land Registry at Battaramulla, interviewed the lady in charge, and inquired about registering the land. There was a delay, and subsequently, the process was completed.
A false deed registration registered from Matara claiming ownership to the land appeared within a week of going to the Land Registry. It was a false deed. One of the persons involved with its creation claims to be a proud Anandian. My great grand uncle, who was the second Principal of Ananda College, Colombo, if he were alive, would be horrified to find out that there are Anandians of today who are willing to stoop so low. The claimant claimed that the land belonged to him, a case was instituted against the claimant. He is presently absconding. But judgement has been issued.
In the meantime, it seems that the land has been sold many times in quick succession. One person who allegedly bought it cut the two jack trees and the Kitul tree, while another buyer brought in heavy equipment and filled the land that sloped to the water edge of the lake. In the process, he broke the gate post and the gate. While this was going on, I placed nine police entries recording what was happening in sequential order. These entries were made to the Mirihana Police Station, as Epitamulla Road comes under its jurisdiction. On finding out that Police entries had been made, the gate post and gate were hurriedly repaired in one night.
The land was being hawked around and offered to different Finance companies and possible genuine buyers. Many to whom the land was offered to, through friends, contacted me, and on being informed that the deeds were fraudulent and that we had not sold the land and they should not get caught in the fraud, they quickly withdrew. Some still ring me thanking me for saving them.
In the meanwhile, others were busy preparing the second set of false deeds and documents. This time the documents included a false deed prepared and attested by Attorneys, a National Identity Card issued in my daughter’s name with a photograph of some strange woman, a death certificate issued in the Kuruvita division, Ratnapura district, in my name and a signed affidavit that the life interest holder that is myself was dead. The documentation looked authentic. The seller was pushing for the conclusion of the sale. The sale had been almost concluded on this false deed. However, a family member of the buyer and his lawyer were suspicious and informed the Mirihana Police. All involved, that is, all the players who were getting a share from the proceeds of the sale were arrested. We were called to the Mirihana Police Station and requested to make statements. We stated that we had not sold the land, and this was recorded. There was a lull for some time.
A couple of months later, two new false deeds appeared. This was more serious. One false deed stated that my daughter had sold the land to a Mr Perera and another a false deed was issued in the new owner’s name. As there was a life interest on the property, there was also a second death certificate, which this time was issued in Colombo, stating that I had died and was buried in the Galkissa Cemetary.
With this documentation, the land was sold to a finance company. Within a week, the owner of the Finance Company, who had met me previously through his family contacts, enquired if I had sold the land when informed that I was still alive. On being informed that I had not sold the land, he immediately informed the CID. He was hell-bent on getting his money back.
The CID was on the ball. They quickly collected copies of all four false deeds and the names of the Attorneys who had signed the deeds. Copies of the two death certificates and the false Identity card. The CID also collected copies of all the five original deeds lodged with us. They also recorded statements from all involved with the original deeds. The heat was such that the owner of the Finance Company got his money back.
Subsequently, the property with the false deed and documentation was sold again to an Insurance Company that placed their name on the gate. The insurance company has since offered the property for sale in the usual manner. Many who were offered it informed us, and after they heard our story, they withdrew. But the Insurance Company continued to push, for its sale. We were informed that some individual had brought in heavy equipment and cleaned the property. I made a police entrée to the Mirihana Police stating that an unknown individual was cleaning the property.
At the end of August 2021, we received an anonymous letter with information giving the names of persons, a Mr. Perera, who is involved in the possible preparation of another fraudulent deed. This letter as well has been handed over to our lawyers.
It is difficult to comprehend how members of the legal profession, members who are duty-bound to protect the rights of the citizens of this country, are so easily convinced and willing to compromise and demine themselves and their ethics to indulge in the initiation and preparation of false deeds and support the falsification of legal documents, which I understand is a serious offence. It is disconcerting that these individuals are willing to compromise themselves, their responsibility and professional ethics to stoop to such low levels to cheat the general public and be so desperate to earn a fee.
It is also unfortunate that Members of the legal brotherhood are willing to certify the forged documents as authentic without proper research into the pedigree of the deeds. They seem to be ever ready to take the documents at face value and even recommend them to potential buyers, their innocent Clients who have placed their trust and faith in their better judgement that the documents are in order.
It is also a bad reflection on the officers in different important government departments who may be willing to issue collaborative documents like death certificates on false requests and even going as far as issuing false National Identity cards to different persons at a small fee. Surely the Sri Lanka administrative service has not reached down to such a low level. However, these documents may also be forgeries. The officers in the Land registry covering the Epitamulla area and the Kotte Municipal Council should not register false documents at face value. They should insist on some authenticated documentation of the real ownership of the property.
We have been notified that brokers are going around trying to sell this property. We have not engaged any brokers. We are informing the general public to please note, that we have not sold the above mentioned property to anyone. We still hold the original title. There have been many efforts to change the status by using numerous forged deeds and false supporting documents to pressure the authorising authorities to collaborate.
The general public is warned against the purchase of this property at 48/57 Epitamulla Road presently 128/5, Ediriweera Sarachchandra Mawatha as all the documentation used to sell the property is fraudulent. The deeds shown and paraded around are all false deeds and documents. Please do not get caught. The Criminal Investigation Department may be busy, but they have all the information needed. The CID has the names of all the people involved and the names of all the members of the legal brotherhood involved in preparing these false deeds. They have already interviewed several people. We are confident that the CID will soon do their job in the usual efficient manner. All the original deeds and copies of the false deeds and related documentation are lodged with Hon. Romesh de Silva PC.
This land adjacent to the Diyawanna Oya is worth a lot today and is not for sale. We are still interested in developing it for our use. We recommend that all parents who gift property to their children introduce a life interest clause, making it more complicated for unscrupulous individuals to intrude on your privacy, as two persons have to agree to sell this land.