A Minister’s name is associated with the activities of an alleged fraudster to retain a highly residential property in Colombo 7 in a fraudulent manner. It has been revealed as to how this alleged fraudster has executed a falsified deed of transfer and a fraudulent vacant possession agreement which is worth Rs.1500 million.
This Minister is alleged to have attempted to exert force to prevent an Attorney-at-Law from entering the disputed property at 14, Gregory’s Road, Colombo 7. This was when the lawyer had gone to obtain his clients’ signatures on a document to produce in court regarding the fraud committed by the 1st suspect who is a friend of the Minister. By the time this incident had taken place on August 6, 2018, the owners of the property were being held hostage by the goons hired by the fraudster and the minister’s security guards.
- By the time this incident had taken place on August 6, 2018, the owners of the property were being held hostage
- It is alleged that the police inaction is due to the influence of this senior Minister
- It’s alleged that an associate of the Minister, Vitharana, had executed a fraudulent deed of transfer
- The 1st complainant Shiranie Fernando too has been living there since her marriage to the second complainant
Although this intimidation has been reported to the Cinnamon Gardens Police by way of a complaint (CIB 1 176/57) by Attorney-at-Law Tisara Edirithilaka the same day, the police have not held an inquiry for more than five months. It is also said that the Police have also not recorded a statement from the Minister.
It is alleged that the police inaction is due to the influence of this Minister and the police have ignored the complaints of the complainants made thus far. Although this newspaper contacted Acting OIC, IP Nagahawatte and OIC MO branch IP Shankar few weeks ago, to unearth why the police during the past two months have failed to hold an inquiry, both the Acting OIC and OIC MO branch said that they have to look into the matter as they are not aware of the incident nor about the failure to hold an inquiry. “We were transferred to this police station a couple of days ago. We have to refer the complaint book and see whether the allegation levelled against the Cinnamon Garden Police is true. We will inform you about the details” they said. Although they promised to keep this newspaper informed, there was no response from both officers until this edition went to press.
It further describes how the 1st complainant revealed as to how Vitharana extorted a staggering Rs 127.8 million from her on six occasions in February, March and April last year by threatening her
According to the plaint filed by Attorney-at-Law Edirithilaka, at the time he tried to enter the premises on August 6, 2018, the said Minister who was occupying a room of the leased apartment in the property had not only exerted force to prevent him from meeting those who were held hostage, but had used abusive language to make him leave. He further states in the plaint, ‘At the time I reached 14, Gregory’s Road with my senior Kosala Dabare, a few big-made men were near the gate obstructing us from entering the premises. When we told what our requirements were, they threatened us not to take a step further as the Minister was inside the apartment. They later took us to the said Minister and when we informed him why we came to meet the owners of the house, the Minister used abusive language and ordered his security to ‘throw us out’ from the premises. Despite of the attempts made by the Minister’s security personnel and the privately hired goons to prevent me and the other counsel from entering the premises, we managed to force our way in and speak to our clients’.
According to the plaint submitted to Colombo Magistrate Court, the Minister is a regular visitor to the questionable apartment leased by the 1st suspect and stays there for several hours with his friends.
It is alleged that a close associate of the Minister namely, Prasad Deshapriya Vitharana, had executed a fraudulent deed of transfer and a fraudulent vacant possession agreement to retain the 71 perch land and the large house therein at No: 14, Gregory’s Road, Colombo 7. It is also alleged that the latter has also extorted money from the owners of the property to the tune of Rs.127.8 million on six occasions threatening them with death.
Seventy-seven-year-old Shiranie Fernando- the 1st complainant and her 87-year-old husband Wimalsen Fernando, the 2nd complainant, through their lawyers have filed two cases in the Colombo District Court and Colombo Magistrate’s Court against Prasad Deshapriya Vitharana (1st accused) of No. 49A/103, Daswiwa Place, Kalubowila and Notary Public Lal J. Thabrew (2nd accused) of No. 35 Ambagahapura, Maharagama.
By way of a Private Plaint the case had been filed in Colombo Magistrate’s Court under and in terms of section 136(1)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act no. 15 of 1979 (as amended) against Prasad Deshapriya Vitharana for executing a fraudulent deed of transfer, a fraudulent vacant possession agreement and extorting Rs.127.8 million.
According to the plaint filed in the District Court of Colombo by the plaintiffs, the property in question at No: 14 Gregory’s Road has been Wimalsen Fernando’s ancestral property for a period of more than 150 years. He who is also the 2nd Plaintiff has been living there since birth. The 1st complainant Shiranie Fernando too has been living there since her marriage to the second complainant. In 2007, Wimalsen Fernando had conferred ownership of the property to his wife by a deed of gift. As they do not have children, a last will had been written bequeathing the property to their nephews and nieces living overseas.
Although these two complainants have been living in the disputed property alone with the domestic aids, it was only last year that part of the house they are living in had been leased out to the accused Prasad Vitharana. Two lease agreements have been executed between Shiranie Fernando and Prasad Vitharana on October 25, 2017, leasing the ground floor apartment on the right side of the main house and the up stair apartment on the right side of the main house, for a period of one year from the date of execution. This had been attested by Notary Public, V.G. Karunasena of No. 12/3, Nelum Mawatha, Off Haramanis Road, Attidiya, Dehiwala.
Subsequently, another lease agreement had been executed on February 15, 2018 with effect from January 30, 2018 leasing another part of the ground floor apartment on the right side of the main house, for one year from the date of execution. This agreement too had been attested by the same Notary Public, V.G. Karunasena.
The plaint further describes that, they have not known the accused prior to executing the first two lease agreements. Later, Vitharana had become a trusted friend to the Fernandos within a short period of time.
After few months, relatives and friends of Fernando had inquired whether they have sold the property as Prasad Vitharana had put a note and a photograph of the house in his Face Book account stating that he is the proud owner of a valuable property in Gregory’s Road. Soon after this in early August 2018, Vitharana had wanted the complainants to vacate the property as per the ‘Vacant Possession Agreement’ to which the husband and wife had got panicked. As they did not vacate the property, Vitharana through his lawyers had sent a letter of demand to the complainants for their failure to abide by the ‘Vacant Possession Agreement’.
Meanwhile, filing an application by way of a private plaint under and in terms of Section 136(1) (a) of the Criminal Procedure Act No: 15 of 1979 as amended, the two plaintiffs have stated they have asked the 1st Respondent Vitharana as to why they have to leave their house. It was then that Vitharana had showed the fraudulent Vacant Possession Agreement to the plaintiffs which had prompted Fernando to carry out a title search immediately through their lawyers from the Land Registry. It was then that they had found out that the 1st Respondent had executed a deed of transfer and a vacant possession agreement bearing Nos. 4767 and 4768 respectively, attested by the 2nd accused. In the plaint it further states that the deeds have been registered in the Land Registry Nugegoda.
It further describes how the 1st complainant revealed as to how Vitharana extorted a staggering Rs 127.8 million from her on six occasions in February, March and April last year by threatening her that in the event the demanded money was not given he would cause harm to the life of her ailing husband. Fearing the harm that could be caused to the life of her husband, the 1st complainant had secretly abided by the demands of the 1st Respondent. In the plaint it further states as to how the plaintiff disclosed the threats made by the 1st accused, to the immediate family and the legal advisors and lodged a complaint with the CID. In her complaint, she has stated that she has not executed a deed transferring any rights of the said property to the 1st accused.
According to the plaint filed by Attorney-at-Law Edirithilaka, at the time he tried to enter the premises on August 6, 2018, the said Minister who was occupying a room of the leased apartment in the property had exerted force to prevent him from meeting those who were held hostage
According to the application filed in court, on two occasions, Shiranie Fernando had withdrawn Rs.5.8 million and Rs.14 million on February 12, 2018 and February 14, 2018 respectively from Hatton National Bank A/c 00501067875 Green Path Branch.
On February 20, 2018, Fernando had transferred Rs.19 million from her HNB Current Account (A/c 006108012270) to the savings account at the Nation Trust Cinnamon Garden branch (A/c 006212086551) and had withdrawn the money to be given to Prasad Vitharana. Again on March 2, 2018, March 13, 2018 and April 25, 2018, the 1st complainant had withdrawn Rs.19 million, Rs.40 million and Rs.30 million respectively from the Nation Trust savings account.
Transfers and withdrawals
She further states that whilst the first two withdrawals were carried out directly from the HNB Bank, subsequent withdrawals were made from the Nations Trust Bank after the funds were transferred from the HNB to the Nations Trust Bank. The statement further states that she had been directed by the 1st accused to transfer the money to Nations Trust Bank from HNB stating that he had certain connections there and therefore did not want the money to be paid to him through a withdrawal from HNB. She further states as to how the accused took her to the banks and remained in the vehicle till the money was withdrawn and on certain occasions accompanied her to the bank and had waited at the lobby till withdrawals were made.
In the application submitted to Colombo Magistrate Court, Fernando says that she believes that the Defender bearing registration number CBB - 3111, had been purchased by Vitharana from the money he extorted from her.
As per the copy of the deeds obtained from the Land Registry Nugegoda according to the plaint, the said agreements are said to have been executed on an undated date in February 2018.
In the application filed in District Court Colombo it states that whilst there is no reference to a particular date in February 2018 in the alleged fraudulent deed of transfer, the only reference to a particular date has been made on the attestation which is dated February 7, 2018. This document states as, ‘In Witness whereof the said Vendors have set their respective hands hereunto and two others of the same tenor and date as these presents at Colombo on ......day of February in the Year Two Thousand and Eighteen (2018)’.
According to counsel Edirithilake’s affidavit, although the third lease Shiranie Fernando entered into with the 1st accused to another part of the same property on February 15, 2018, it makes totally insensible for the accused Vitharana to hide the fact and to make a fraudulent deed of transfer the entire disputed property by executing it on February 7, 2018. It further states ‘The said attestation of the Notary who is the 2nd accused is dated February 7, 2018 refers to February 14, 2018, as the date on which the stamp duty had been paid.
Edirithilake further states that if Fernando has executed a deed of transfer on February 7, 2018 transferring the freehold rights to the property in dispute, there would be no credible reason for Fernando to have executed a lease agreement granting leasehold rights to the same property to the accused nor would have been a reasonable purpose for the 1st accused to be a party to a lease agreement as the lessee if he was the legal owner to the property.
According to the plaint filed in the District Court Colombo, in the fraudulent deed of transfer, the property had been sold for Rs. 358.75 million which had been attested by the 2nd accused Lal J Thabrew, the Notary who states in his attestation that the complainants are known to him and that the 1st accused paid Rs.80 million of the total purchase price to the complainants in his presence.
According to the plaint filed in the District Court Colombo, in the fraudulent deed of transfer, the property had been sold for Rs. 358.75 million
According to the plaint, the Fernando duo have never met this Notary even as of today. Although they say that the property was sold for Rs.358.75 million, it values more than Rs. 1500 million. The complainants in the plaint have stated that the originals of the deeds in proof of the ownership to them are kept in the Walt at the HNB and that they still remain there and that the adjoining property too is owned by them where an owner of a Casino Club in Kollupitiya is now occupying despite notice of ejectment being given by Fernando nearly 8 years ago. Having come to know about this issue, Prasad Vitharana has prompted Fernando to sign certain blank papers on a false pretense that he will take steps to get the adjoining property back to them. It is now believed that Vitharana had used these signed blank papers to make the fraudulent deed of transfer and the vacant possession agreement.
Meanwhile an application has been filed in the District Court of Colombo seeking an enjoining order preventing Vitharana from illegally depriving the 1st and 2nd complainants of their property, the District Judge issued an enjoining order preventing the defendants from interfering with the peaceful possession of the Plaintiffs and further preventing the defendants from harassing the plaintiffs on the usage of the access roads. Another interim order had been issued directing the Senior DIG of Colombo to take necessary steps to protect the lives and property of the plaintiffs as per the provisions of Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act No. 04 of 2015. Meanwhile when asked whether the necessary police protection given to the victims still remains, Attorney-at-law Edirithilake told the , that although Senior DIG Colombo provided two police officers for the plaintiffs’ protection as per the District Judge’s order soon after the directives were given, it has now been reduced to one, after the UNF Government came back to power in December last year.
Although several calls were made to this Minister seeking a comment in regard to the allegation levelled against him, there was no response. A text message was then forwarded to get his side of the story, but there was no response from him at the time the paper went for publication.
Following is the English translation of the Enjoining Order issued by Additional District Judge Jayaki de Alwis on August 9, 2018.
“After reading plaint and its annexures and hearing the submissions of the Learned Presidents Counsel appearing on behalf of the Plaintiffs, I have arrived at the prima facie conclusion that the plaintiffs have a right to the property.
Accordingly, as prayed for in prayer ‘A’ of the Plaint, an enjoining order is issued to prevent the first and second defendants from committing any acts prayed for in the plaint for a period of 14 days in the first instance, until further determination. Notice is issued to file objections with regards to the issuance of an interim injunction.
It is ordered to issue notice of the enjoining order together with the Plaint, its annexures and the affidavit to the Defendants through the fiscal and through registered post.
For the purpose of issuing summons, the plaintiffs are ordered to deposit Rs. 75,000/- prior to the fiscal taking steps to issue summons on the defendants.
Upon these steps being taken, I direct the Registrar to issue notices to the accused through the Fiscal and registered post.
Taking into consideration the age of the 1st and 2nd Plaintiffs and the fact that they have no children, I order the Deputy Inspector General of Colombo region to take steps as per the The Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No.04 of 2015 as per normal duties.”