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CID on Collision course with CDS over the fugitive

2018-06-19 00:10:58
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According to the ‘B’ Report submitted to the Colombo Fort Magistrates Court (Case number B 732/ 09) by the CID last week, several witnesses within the Sri Lanka Navy have provided information to sleuths. The information reveals that Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ravindra C. Wijegunaratne personally harboured fugitive Lieutenant Commander Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi alias Navy Sampath at Navy headquarters, provided him with lodging, meals, funds and a means to escape the country before he could be arrested by the CID. Admiral Wijegunaratne was the Navy Commander at the time the incidents are alleged to have taken place which is in March 2017.   

 

Lieutenant Commander Hettiarachchi is one of many naval officers charged with the abduction for ransom and subsequent disappearance of eleven youth in 2008. Even after a warrant was issued for his arrest, the CID alleges that the then Navy Commander continued to secretly shelter Navy Sampath whilst providing bogus reports to the CID that the officer had Gone Absent Without Leave (AWOL).   


Several weeks before the latest Court Report, Admiral Wijegunaratne and CID Director Shani Abeysekara were involved in a heated verbal exchange in the presence of several senior police officers as well as four Cabinet and State Ministers. The CID Director had bluntly accused the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of obstructing criminal investigations and harbouring fugitives including Navy Sampath, to which Wijegunaratne retorted indignantly that he would resign from his position in the military if Abeysekara could prove such an allegation.   


Witnesses to the exchange were Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara, then Prison Reforms Minister D.M. Swaminathan, State Minister Ajith P. Perera, incumbent Navy Commander Vice Admiral Srimevan Ranasinghe, the Senior Deputy Inspectors General and Directors of the CID and FCID and President’s Counsel J.C. Weliamuna.   


The group had assembled for a meeting at the Ministry of Public Administration on April 20, 2018 when the Director CID criticized the Navy and its former Commander for aiding and abetting Navy Sampath to flee the country despite repeated requests by the CID to the Navy through its Commander to produce him before the CID. It was at this time that Abeysekara openly alleged that Wijegunaratne had given money to Hettiarachchi, harboured him and enabled him to flee the country in a Navy Fast Attack Craft (FAC).   


After remaining silent for several weeks in the face of challenges from Wijegunaratne to allow him to prove his innocence, the CID has spoken, loudly, and as it so often has done, through documents filed before a magistrate.   


The first such witness was Navy Sampath’s own wife, who had told investigators that her husband was being housed in the naval officer’s mess between March 3 and March 31, 2017. She asserted that she had visited him there on a regular basis. It was during this same period that the Navy had informed the CID in writing that they were unable to locate Navy Sampath.   

 

After remaining silent for several weeks in the face of challenges from Wijegunaratne to allow him to prove his innocence, the CID has spoken, loudly, and as it so often has done, through documents filed before a magistrate. The first such witness was Navy Sampath’s own wife, who had told investigators that her husband was being housed in the naval officer’s mess between March 3 and March 31, 2017. She asserted that she had visited him there on a regular basis


The CID had sent two messages to the administration branch of the Naval Head Quarters, through Navy Commander Ravindra Wijegunaratne on March 1 and March 28, 2017, requesting the Navy to produce Navy Sampath at the CID Headquarters on March 2 and 31 respectively. According to the CID, these requests went unheeded.   


Another Navy officer who cooperated with the CID is Lieutenant Commander Galagamage Laksiri. According to Laksiri, when he was occupying room number 22 on the third floor of the eight story building, that houses the naval officers’ mess in Colombo Fort, Navy Sampath was occupying the opposite room. Laksiri has seen Sampath’s wife and children visit him very often, corroborating the statement given by the latter’s wife.   


Commander Laksiri recalled an incident he witnessed with his own eyes. The incident involved the then Navy Commander Wijegunaratne admonishing Navy Sampath not to leave the officers’ mess. Detailing the exchange, Commander Laksiri recalls that he and Navy Sampath had a chance encounter with Wijegunaratne riding the elevator at the Navy Officers Mess in the late evening. The Navy Commander had inquired where Navy Sampath was going, to which the fugitive had replied that he was going to meet his wife at the nearby lighthouse. Wijegunaratne had accused and warned the fugitive, who was dressed down, that the police were on the look out for him and that he would not be able to assist him in the event he is apprehended out in public. Laksiri opines in his statement that this very strange incident made it clear to him that Wijegunaratne was ‘taking care’ of Navy Sampath.   


Curious, Laksiri had inquired from the accused what the exchange was about, to which the fugitive responded that he was hiding from the CID fearing his arrested if they found him, just as two fellow officers, Commander Sumith Ranasinghe and Signalman Udaya Kumara were when they were interviewed by the CID on March 2, 2017. Ranasinghe and Kumara were also produced and remanded for complicity in the 2008 abduction for ransom of eleven youth. Both have since been enlarged on bail.   

 

The Navy Commander had inquired where Navy Sampath was going, to which the fugitive had replied that he was going to meet his wife at the nearby lighthouse. Wijegunaratne had accused and warned the fugitive, who was dressed down, that the police were on the look out for him and that he would not be able to assist him in the event he is apprehended out in public


Laksiri also described another incident which took place the day after the elevator encounter, where he had paid a visit to Navy Sampath in his room at the Officer’s Mess. Laksiri said that he saw the accused taking some currency notes from a parcel in the cupboard. The CID produced an extract from Laksiri’s statement that reads “When I went to Navy Sampath’s room on this particular evening, he was in a hurry getting ready to go somewhere. He then took a parcel out from a cupboard and took some currency notes out of it. When I asked what that was, he said that it is a parcel of currency notes sent to him by the Navy Commander through his Secretary Rear Admiral Hettiarachchi for his personal expenses. Following this meeting, I did not see Navy Sampath and there was a rumor within the Navy that he has fled the country.”   

 

 Mystery 

 

Another officer cooperating with the CID is Captain Roshan Dissanayake, with whom Navy Sampath had worked at the time he fled the country. When it was reported that the accused had neither gone to the CID on March 2 nor reported to his post until March 4, 2017, Dissanayake had requested that the Navy take disciplinary action against him, he told investigators. However, by the time the CID had asked the Navy to produce the accused for the second time, on March 31, 2017, he had left the naval service under mysterious circumstances.   


The CID also detailed several anecdotes that imply the further degree to which Wijegunaratne is suspected to have tried to obstruct the investigation. Navy Sampath was serving under the command of Rear Admiral Ananda Guruge at the time he left the naval service. When Guruge was asked to report to the CID on February 21, 2017 to record a statement, he had informed the investigators that he wasn’t able to appear on that date as he had to take over duties in the Eastern Province. He instead undertook to visit the CID on March 5, 2018.   


Then, the CID received an unexpected letter dated March 5, 2018 from Navy Commander Wijegunaratne, informing them that Guruge is unable to come on that day and that he would come on March 12. The reasons were a mystery to both Guruge and the CID. Rear Admiral Guruge was not allowed to come to the CID even on March 12, and subsequently only cooperated with investigators after a new navy commander took office.   


Both Wijegunaratne and wartime Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda had made representations to President Maithripala Sirisena to quash the CID investigation on the basis that the eleven youth who were abducted were involved in terrorist activities, and that the abductions and murders thus constituted national security operations.   


It is learned that thereafter, President Sirisena had made inquiries with over a dozen agencies including the State Intelligence Service, the Terrorist Investigation Division, Colombo Crimes Division, Directorates of Naval, Air Force and Army Intelligence, CID, Special Task Force, Fraud Bureau and Crime Record Division, none of whom had any intelligence or information implicating any of the victims in any terrorism-related or even illegal activities.   


The most ironic twist in the case is that the abductions may have gone unsolved if not for a personal dispute that took place in 2009 between then Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda and his Personal Security Officer, Lt. Commander Sampath Munasinghe. According to Court documents, several Navy officers had inspected Munasinghe’s quarters on May 26, 2009, and discovered passports, national identity cards (NICs) and bank cards of several missing persons, as well as SIM cards, and live ammunition. The findings were followed by a written complaint made by the then Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda to the CID two days later on May 28, 2009.   


The items recovered from the search included a passport bearing number N 1431844 of Stanley Lyon and four national identity cards (NIC) belonged to K. A. Anton (601772809 V), Thygarajah Jegan (790683021 V), Stanley Lyon (584201179 V) and S. A. Roshan (870232713 V) together with many other items including live ammunition cartridges, mobile phones, a credit card and SIM cards. Later, during the investigations it was revealed that the owners of these recovered items from Munasinghe’s quarters had gone missing in 2008.   


The wife of K.A. Anton, Samsudin Nihara, had confirmed with the CID that the NIC bearing number 601772809 V and the Bank of Ceylon Visa Credit Card bearing number 1051 7661 2000 5586 that was taken into custody from Sampath Munasinghe’s room belonged to her husband, Kasthuri Arachchige Anton was kidnapped on October 10, 2008. Nihara told investigators that her son Kasthuri Arachchige John Reed too had been abducted two months earlier on August 9, 2008.   

 

 Ransom Demanded 

 

Nihara had thereafter received calls from an unidentified person speaking in Tamil who had demanded a ransom of Rs. 1.5 million to release both her husband and son. She had only been able to pay five hundred thousand rupees. She had met the abductors and given them this sum on November 4, 2008 at a place in Narammala in Kurunegala, but her husband and son were never released and are presumed dead.   


It was the same fate that had befallen on Thyagarajah Parameshwari too. The NIC bearing the number 790683021V, and found at Sampath Munasinghe’s room, belonged to the 30-year-old Thyagarajah Jegan. Two months after his abduction, his mother Thyagarajah Parameshwari had received a call from one Annachchi, who had demanded Rs. 1 million to be paid as ransom within ten days to secure her son’s release. The caller had allowed Jegan to talk to his mother and he had told her that he was detained at a Navy Camp. Later, the destitute mother had negotiated the ransom money down to eight hundred thousand rupees. However, she was ultimately able to collect only five hundred thousand rupees and that too after pleading with all her relatives to raise this money by selling their jewellery. They too had been asked to arrive at a place closer to Kurunegala and their monies were taken at gunpoint. Her son was never released, and is presumed dead.   


According to the ‘B’ Report, Anthony Fernando a relative of Lyon had told the CID that he had come to know Stanley Lyon and Roshan Lyon had been detained in a Navy camp and that he received a call demanding a ransom of nine hundred thousand rupees to be paid to Navy Officer Dassanayake to secure the release of his kin. Although the family had agreed to pay the ransom, they were unable to contact Dassanayake to pay the money as Dassanayake had left the country on a training programme. These two NICs and the passport too had been found in Sampath Munasinghe’s room, and the men are presumed to have been executed.   


In subsequent facts reports to the Colombo Fort Magistrate (CASE NO: B 732/ 09), the CID has charged that an additional eleven youth were abducted from Elakanda, Dehiwela, Kochchikade, Colombo and Katunayake by Naval Intelligence officers on the directives of Lt. Com. Sampath Munasinghe and Navy Sampath.   
The names of the eleven missing youth are Kasthuriarachchilage John Reed, Rajiv Naganathan, Pradeep Vishvanathan, Thilakeshwaram Nagalingam, Mohamed Saajith, Jamaldeen Dilan, Amanon Lyon, Roshan Lyon, Antony Kasturiarachchi, Thiyagarajha Jegan and Mohomed Anver.   

 

  • It was later revealed that the abductors had wanted the parents of Rajiv Naganathan, one of the students, to pay a ransom of Rs. 10 million to release the children. This had been negotiated down to one million rupees. The abductors had told the Naganathan family that the money had to be paid to a “Sampath”, who was purportedly working closely with the Navy Commander
  • Both Wijegunaratne and wartime Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda had made representations to President Maithripala Sirisena to quash the CID investigation on the basis that the eleven youth who were abducted were involved in terrorist activities, and that the abductions and murders thus constituted national security operations.   It is learned that thereafter, President Sirisena had made inquiries with over a dozen agencies which included institutes like the State Intelligence Service, the Terrorist Investigation Division and Colombo Crimes Division


Five among these eleven, Rajiv Naganathan, Pradeep Vishvanathan, Thilakeshwaram Nagalingam, Mohamed Sajith and Jamaldeen Dilan, were abducted in Dehiwela while on their way to visit a friend on September 17, 2008. They were travelling on Rajiv Naganatha’s black car bearing the license plate WP KC 5569.   
According to the ‘B’ Report, several Navy officers who have cooperated with the CID have painted a clear picture of the fate of these five youths. Commodore Udaya Keerthi Wijaya Bandara, who was a Consultant to the then Navy Commander, told sleuths that he was informed by Captain Jagath Jayantha Ranasinghe that Sampath Munasinghe had abducted five students from Dehiwela and demanded a ransom of one million rupees from each of the families to release these students.   
It was later revealed that the abductors had wanted the parents of Rajiv Naganathan, one of the students, to pay a ransom of Rs. 10 million to release the children. This had been negotiated down to one million rupees. The abductors had told the Naganathan family that the money had to be paid to a “Sampath”, who was purportedly working closely with the Navy Commander.


The CID has since recorded confessions from two Navy sailors Aluth Gedara Upul Bandara and Lakshman Udaya Kumara who had worked for Sampath Munsinghe and were directly involved in the abduction of these five youth. According to their statements, it was Munasinghe who had ordered them to abduct a group comprising five ‘suspects’ that was  coming to Badowita in Dehiwela. Once they had abducted the five ‘suspects’ they handed them over to Munasinghe who had taken them in a white van.   


Both Upul Bandara and Lakshman Udaya Kumara had later changed their stories and given subsequent statements alleging that it was the then Director of Naval Intelligence, Ananda Guruge who had instructed them to give what they now call false statements implicating Sampath Munasinghe in the abduction. The CID told the magistrate that in their second statements, both Upul Bandara and Udaya Kumara had stated that it was in fact Navy Sampath not Munasinghe, who led the abduction team. It was Sampath Munasinghe that had allegedly instructed Navy Sampath to carry out the abduction. According to their statement, all the belongings of these five students had been taken over by Navy Sampath while the car in which they were travelling had been taken over by Lt. Commander Ranasinghe. Later, it was revealed that parts of this car had been found within the Navy base in Trincomalee, but had gone missing when the CID investigations began.   


The ‘B’ Report reveals that a Navy informant Anver Ali was the person who had given a tip off to Sampath Munasinghe about the Naganathan family who were well off and that was why their son was abducted for ransom. Later Anver Ali too had been abducted by the same abductors and his fate too is not known as of today. 


According to the reports, Rajiv Naganathan studied at Colombo International School and was to leave the country the following day to study medicine at a University in the United Kingdom. Anver Ali had got friendly with Rajiv through Saajith two days before he was abducted. Anver Ali had inquired about Rajiv’s father’s businesses and it was on their way to meet Ali that Rajiv and his friends were kidnapped by Navy Sampath on the instructions of Munasinghe.   


Several additional navy officers have cooperated with the CID and provided details of how the abducted youth were imprisoned in multiple naval facilities. These witnesses include Punchi Banda Ranatunge, Wimalaratne Siri Seneviratne, Ranhawadi Darayalage Priyankara, Nimal Jayaratne, Sampath Saman Kumara Abeykoon. Nalin Niroshana Marasinghe, Pradeep Herath Bandara, Lt. Com. C.K. Welagedara, Bandu Kumara, Pradeep Sudarshana Kumarasinghe and B.M. Wijekantha, all of whom were attached to the Naval Base at Trincomalee in 2008 and 2009.   

 

The names of the eleven missing youth are Kasthuriarachchilage John Reed, Rajiv Naganathan, Pradeep Vishvanathan, Thilakeshwaram Nagalingam, Mohamed Saajith, Jamaldeen Dilan, Amanon Lyon, Roshan Lyon, Antony Kasturiarachchi, Thiyagarajha Jegan and Mohomed Anver


These officers had confirmed the CID that the 11 abductees were kept at an underground prison cell at the ‘Gunsight’ camp in the Trincomalee naval base.   
Another sailor, B. M. Wijayakantha alias Podi Malli (able seaman VAS 68653) told investigators that he knew that it was in fact Sumith Ranasinghe who executed the detainees at gunpoint, tied their lifeless bodies to concrete poles and threw them to the middle of the sea.   


Yet another sailor, Upul Bandara, told the CID that he recalled five students including Rajiv Naganathan being brought to the Navy Head Quarters from Dehiwela on the instructions of Lt. Com. Sampath Munasinghe, and that they were kept at a place called ‘pittu bambuwa’ from August 2008 to April 2009 without being handed over to the police or produced in court.   


According to Lt. Com. Welagedara’s statement, he had even seen a few Navy sailors loading dead bodies wrapped in polythene to the back of a double cab which indicates that these abductees had been killed at ‘Gunsight’ underground prison. He also accused two other suspects, Cap. D.K.P. Dassanayake and Lt. Com. Sumith Ranasinghe of threatening him and Upul Bandara for giving evidence to the CID against them.   

 

Another sailor, B. M. Wijayakantha alias Podi Malli (able seaman VAS 68653) told investigators that he knew that it was in fact Sumith Ranasinghe who executed the detainees at gunpoint, tied their lifeless bodies to concrete poles and threw them to the middle of the sea. 


However, Lt. Commander Sumith Ranasinghe had told the CID that he was informed by Navy Sailor Bandara that the five that had been abducted by Sampath Munasinghe had been killed and their bodies had been thrown to the Kelani River. He claimed that he did not have any hand in these abductions, but had only come to know that they were carried out by Navy Sampath and the then Navy Commander Karannagoda were well aware of what was happening.   


Prior to 2017, Hettiarachchi had told the CID that he and Munasinghe occupied the same quarters- Room No: 8 at the officers mess and that a Muslim informant frequently visited Munasinghe. The now fugitive had further asserted that he had never associated with any Muslim person nor had he detained people for questioning at any time, adding that the Navy has no authority to arrest people. He roundly refuted the allegations levelled against the Navy of abducting people for any reason.   
Seaman Ranhavadi Durayalage Priyankara (Navy Seaman VA 59652) told investigators that he worked under Lt. Com. Ranasinghe and that in the Naval base there were underground prisons where LTTE suspects were often detained. He said it was Ranasinghe who headed the Navy Special Intelligence Unit and that Rajiv Naganathan, Pradeep Vishwanathan, Dilan, Sajith, Ramalingam, Jegan, Amalin Lyon, Stanley Lyon, John Reet, Antony and even Ali Anvar who gave the tip off to abduct the five students were all detained in the underground ‘Gunsight’ prison. He has also stated that he can identify those detainees if he sees them again. He identified all of them in the photographs that the CID had showed him and had confirmed that all of them were under Lt. Com. Ranasinghe’s custody.   


Meanwhile Wimalaweera Wickremasuriya (Navy Seaman XP 20844), Attanayake Mudiyanselage Ashoka Mahesh Kumara (Master Chief Petty Officer ED 26213), Jenul Abdeen Sherifdeen (Petty Officer VA 2552), Nalinda Niroshan Marasinghe (SC 44126) and Saman Kumara Abhayakoon (XS 45655) too in their statements have stated that they knew how people were abducted and kept in detention and how they were killed later by these Navy officers.   


As the CID investigation heated up in 2010, the CID leadership met with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Chief of National Intelligence Major General Kapila Hendawitharana on June 15, 2010, to brief them on the case and the likelihood that several high ranking naval officers would be suspects in what appeared to be an abduction for ransom cum murder racket.   


According to correspondence and minutes by then CID Director M.K.D.W. Amarasinghe, Rajapaksa had ordered the CID to carry out a full investigation into these crimes and to keep him appraised of any progress and obstacles encountered by the investigators. Rajapaksa and Hendawitharana, who at the time were the country’s intelligence czars, had concluded that there were no national security grounds to justify these abductions, and wanted those responsible brought to justice.   
Former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendawitharana recalled the meeting in an interview with the Daily Mirror. General Hendawitharana confirmed that Rajapaksa did indeed order the CID to investigate these crimes and all instances of illegal abductions which took place under guise of purported threats to national security.

 

 

 


  Comments - 2

  • ghostlanka Thursday, 21 June 2018 17:18

    This a BLOCKBUSTER movie script......could earn a million dollars quite easily.

    Reply : 0       2

    dilan Sunday, 24 June 2018 16:45

    This regime will never finalize these criminal cases until they finish their term ie. 2020, and next murderous regime will come back and throw all these cases as earlier.

    Reply : 0       1

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