A sub-inspector formerly attached to the Criminal Investigation Department has reportedly told the Gampaha Magistrate that the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) had “pressured” him to give a false statement to falsely implicate former CID director SSP Shani Abeysekera, blowing the cover on the witch-hunt against the former CID Director who was arrested a few days ago.
The explosive revelations came after the Sub Inspector R.S.M. Mendis was arrested by the CCD and produced before the Gampaha Magistrate today (4).
When the sub inspector was produced in court, his lawyer Chaminda Athukorala informed Gampaha Magistrate Manjula Karunaratne that ASP Neville de Silva and another Inspector attached to the Colombo Crimes Division had warned SI Mendis that he would be arrested unless he provided a statement that SSP Shani Abeysekera had planted firearms at a house in Gampaha in order to frame former DIG Vass Gunawardane for murder.
When Mendis failed to comply, the sub inspector had been arrested by the CCD, his lawyer told the Magistrate.
After giving ear to the allegation made by lawyers for the sub inspector, Magistrate Karunaratne decided to record a statement from SI Mendis inside Chambers.
With the witch-hunt against Shani Abeysekera who oversaw key probes that have implicated high ranking members of the current regime badly exposed the Government cracked down on media reports about SI Mendis’ assertions in the Gampaha Magistrate’s Court.
Several hours ago the Daily Mirror newspaper in Colombo published an article titled: CCD pressured me to frame Shani Abeysekara – arrested fmr CID officer tells Magistrate. The report detailed proceedings in court and provided valuable background information regarding the evidence compilation specifically in reference to the recovered firearms in the Vass Gunawardane murder trial.
A few minutes after the story was posted online, it was removed by the administrators. A copy of the article cached by Google is however circulating across social media and can be accessed here.
Colombo Telegraph learns that the harassment of Shani Abeysekera is directly linked to the Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime’s decision to grant ex DIG Vass Gunawardane a pardon after the parliamentary elections. DIG Vass Gunawardane was a close associate of Rajapaksa during his tenure as defence secretary. It was widely believed that Vass Gunswardane’s contract killing business was given protection by high ranking members of the Rajapaksa administration in 2005-2015.
Interestingly the case to frame Shani Abeysekera on false charges was handed over to the Colombo Crimes Division, where the convicted ex DIG Vaas Gunewardane functioned as Director during the time of Mohammed Shiyam’s murder.
The facts of the case against DIG Vaas Gunewardane as they relate to the ongoing persecution of former CID Director Shani Abeysekera are as follows:
· SI Mendis is currently attached to the Embilipitiya Police station. He was arrested on Monday (3) on charges of fabricating evidence in the 2013 Mohammed Shiyam murder case.
· In May 2014 it was then ASP Shani Abeysekera and SI Mendis who informed the Fort Magistrate’s Court that a weapons haul had been discovered at the Gampaha residence of an associate of former DIG Vass Gunewardane. Abeysekera and Mendis are now being accused of planting the weapons there to frame Vass Gunawardane by the owner of the residence (Priyantha Neligama) in which the firearms were discovered and a former aide (Chaminda Villaarachi) to the ex-DIG.
· Both Neligama and Vilaarachchi provided sworn statements to the CID in 2014 that the weapons were hidden by ex DIG Vaas Gunewardane. In 2013 at the time of the Mohammed Shiyam murder, Neligama and ViIaarachchi were Vaas Gunewardane’s guards. In June 2020 they retracted those confessions claiming instead that SSP Shani Abeysekera had planted the firearms at the residence. The duo said their confessions against Vaas Gunewardane had been compelled by Abeysekera.
· In 2014, the Rajapaksa regime was still in office and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, known to be a long-time patron of DIG Vass Gunawardane was defence secretary. Colombo Telegraph learns that on several occasions, Gotabaya Rajapaksa attempted to interfere with the CID investigation into the bent cop and his contract killing operation.
· During his murder trial, former DIG Vass Gunewardane made a confession on the dock that he owned the weapons recovered by the CID at the home of Priyantha Neligama. The former DIG claimed he had obtained the weapons during an operation against the LTTE. However investigators discovered that some of the weapons found were registered to the Kurunegala Police armoury.
· In 2015, a High Court Trial-At-Bar found DIG Vass Gunawardane, his son Ravindu Gunawardane and several police officers serving in Gunawardane’s unit guilty of murdering the businessman Mohammed Shiyam for sum of Rs 10 million paid by Shiyam’s business rivals.
· The two rival businessmen turned crown witnesses and testified during the trial that they had indeed contracted DIG Vaas Gunewardane and his team to carry out the murder for money.
· CCTV footage displayed during the trial showed Shiyam being abducted in a vehicle belonging to DIG Vass Gunawardane. His son, Ravindu Gunawardane who was also sentenced to death by the High Court, was driving the vehicle that abducted the businessman who was later murdered.
· The Government Analyst found that a weapon recovered at the Gampaha home of the Vass Gunawardane associate matched the bullets that had killed Shiyam.
· A High Court judge also convicted former DIG Vass Gunawardane in 2018 for threatening to murder CID officials, including SSP Shani Abeysekera who were interrogating him over the murder of Mohammed Shiyam. The Attorney General indicted the former top cop on charges of threatening murder, and High Court Judge Gihan Kulatunge found Vaas Gunewardane guilty and sentenced him to five years rigorous imprisonment.
· During the trial, the Attorney General alleged that, on or around June 13, 2013, the CID detectives, including ASP Shani Abeysekara, and, Special Investigations Division OIC, Inspector M.A.S. Ranjith Munasinghe, had received death threats, when Vass Gunawardane was being questioned, at the CID headquarters on June 13 over the killing of businessman Mohamed Shiyam.
· In a complaint to the CID Special Investigations Division, ASP Abeysekara alleged that the suspect Vass Gunawardena threatened them saying, “Shani, I am a murderer; you won’t be able to keep me inside forever. When I am out, see what I will do to all of you.”