The daughter of slain journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge has accused Sri Lanka’s criminal investigation department (CID) of offences under the Bribery Act, for attempting to aid MiG-deal suspect Udyanga Weeratunga to evade justice, according to a complaint filed with the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption last week.
Ahimsa Wickrematunge whose father was murdered in January 2009 after his newspaper – The Sunday Leader – published a series of explosive exposes about the same corruption scandal involving the procurement of MiG-27 aircraft in 2006 complained to the Bribery Commission that she believed the CID and its new Director SSP Thilakaratne could be charged with intent to confer a wrongful and unlawful benefit, favour or advantage on Weeratunga who was successfully extradited to Sri Lanka from the UAE this month.
Lasantha Wickrematunge’s daughter has often linked her father’s killing to his reporting on the MiG deal which also implicated then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the corruption scandal.
“I firmly believe that my father’s murder stemmed from his efforts to investigate the crimes with which Mr. Weeratunga is charged. The CID has revealed, since 2015, that at least three additional people were killed in an attempt to cover up my father’s murder,” Ahimsa Wickrematunge charged in her complaint.
“The MiG corruption scandal has already claimed too many lives,” Wickrematunge’s complaint to the Bribery Commission said. “I believe that those responsible must be brought to justice and the matter must be laid to rest, once and for all.”
The daughter of the slain journalist said that: “An immediate, thorough and impartial investigation by CIABOC may be the only way to prevent the present CID leadership from releasing Mr. Weeratunga and his coconspirators of responsibility for their crimes,” urging the Bribery Commission to launch an investigation into the conduct of top officials at the agency.”
FCID investigations over a period of five years have revealed that Weeratunga, who is first cousin to both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, masterminded the corrupt aircraft deal, while serving as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Ukraine. However when Weeratunga was produced in court as a suspect, the CID failed to submit a document certifying that the President’s first cousin had committed offences under the Public Property Act, to the value of over Rs 25,000. The lackadaisical attitude of the CID was seen as a blatant attempt to assist Weeratunga to get bail. Key officials in charge of the investigation at the FCID and the CID were also transferred out of the departments as soon as the Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was officially informed that Weeratunga’s extradition process was complete and he could finally be returned to Sri Lanka to face justice.
The CID’s extremely strange behavior was remarked upon at length by Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake who is supervising the MiG investigation and whose court issued the first warrant for Weeratunga’s arrest in 2016.
Wickrematunge’s complaint called on the Bribery Commission to “peruse the case record of B 639/2015, call for records from the CID pertaining to the extradition of Weeratunga and the transfer of Francis, and interview individuals familiar with the facts such as Hon. Ranga Dissanayake, DSG Thusith Mudalige and CI Nihal Francis.
According to Wickrematunge’s complaint, if the Bribery Commission conducted this investigation, “sufficient evidence would emerge to charge and convict CID officers including Mr. Thilakaratne, with intent to confer a wrongful and unlawful benefit, favour or advantage on Udayanga Weeratunga, of:
1. Doing and forbearing several acts which they were empowered to do by virtue of their office as a public servant, to wit – (a) the irregular request to the AIGP that CI Nihal Francis be removed from the CID, and (b) the failure to properly produce Weeratunga before the Magistrates Court and seek his remand in terms of the Offences Against Public Property Act;
2. Using information coming to their knowledge by virtue of their office as a public servant, to wit – (a) knowledge that the government of the UAE were prepared to extradite Mr. Weeratunga to Sri Lanka; and (b) knowledge that a large body of evidence existed against Weeratunga for having committed grave financial crimes against the State.”
The body of evidence discovered should be more than adequate to seek the conviction of the relevant police officers for the offence of corruption, in terms of Section 70 of the Bribery Act, Wickrematunge said, urging the Bribery Commission to open an investigation into the matter in the public interest.
Full text of Ahimsa Wickrematunge’s complaint to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption can be read here