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Bribery allegations are completely false

10 December 2013 06:51 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Bribery Commission Chairman

Chairman of the Commission to investigate Bribery or Corruption, former Supreme Court Judge Justice Jagath de Silva Balapatabendi who is currently under the media spotlight due to a vehicle he had used which was allegedly sold by a trader who was under a customs probe, denied allegations of corruption or bribery.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Justice Balapatabendi refuted allegations cast against him categorically stating that he had not been involved in any malpractice with regard to the vehicle. Instead, he accused parties with vested interests slinging mud at him.

The former Judge was accused by UNP Parliamentarian Sujeewa Senasinghe and thereafter by the media, of being in possession of a vehicle which was provided by a trader who was earlier under the customs spotlight for evading the payment of customs duty on vehicles.



Q: Justice, with regard to the recent allegations made against you, what do you have to say?
With regard to these allegations that were made in certain newspapers last Sunday is absolutely false. The allegation was that I was on the bench on the day the 145 vehicles were released. I have got a copy of the judgment with me, and this clearly shows that the judgment was delivered by the Hon. Chief Justice S.N. Silva, Justice Amaratunga and Justice Sripavan. Therefore this allegation is completely false.

I’m proving these with documents. The other allegation is that I bought this vehicle from this particular person. I have got the registration certificate which states that I bought this vehicle from Punyasiri Fernando of Mount Lavinia; this is someone I know. The transfer date of this vehicle is January 13, 2011 and at that time I had retired from the bench.
I bought this vehicle not from the alleged party but another who had bought this vehicle in 2008. I couldn’t be tracing the owners of the vehicles and it is the person who sold it to me, who had bought it from this other guy.

Q: But this was an ‘Emperor’ vehicle - you would have known that it was one of these vehicles wouldn’t you?
Yes but there were so many other vehicles on the road.
Q: But the vehicle that you used was a Toyota vehicle wasn’t it?
Almost all vehicles were used under these names, and only the registration certificate would use the brand name ‘Emperor’. Even now it runs in the same way.
Q: So you deny these allegations?

Yes I do, because I have got all the documentary proof to show that these allegations are completely false. I have already taken steps to clarify the real facts.
Q: Are you saying you don’t know this person named Harsha?
No, I don’t know. Any person can come and make a complaint but that doesn’t mean I could be partial or would know someone or should know him.
There are over 200 officers who carry out investigations and I don’t go for these investigations. On a complaint, a raid is organised, and a raid was conducted which was successful - that is all there is to it.

Q: Moving away, there is this allegation that as the Bribery Commissioner  you’d only investigate petty crimes, often ignoring the massive corruption that occurs in the country?
Actually that had been the notion in the past that we go behind the sprats and small fish. But I could tell you that from the time we took over we have been able to nab the big fish as well. A District Judge was caught, then a high-ranking officer of the customs was caught, and another two or three assessors of the income tax department have been nabbed.
Irrespective of the position as soon as we have a complaint we would go after them and nab them.

Q: But then there is this notion that politicians are not within your purview? For example Rohitha Abeygunawardena, and so many other high level ministers have fallen by the wayside?
We were appointed in May 2011, and these files must have been pending or must’ve been closed prior to us taking over. These allegations didn’t come before us yet. They may be under investigations or must have been closed, but they haven’t come before us.  I can only speak of what took place during my tenure and during that time every complaint that came before us was thoroughly investigated; that is why people have confidence in us and come to us with complaints.

Q: Irrespective of their position or prominence?
Yes under my tenure, but the thing is, during this time we have never received a complaint of bribery against a politician where we could go and conduct a raid. There are of course other allegations against low level politicians, but seldom would someone come to us with a complaint against a top level politician through which a raid could be carried out.
No person would lead us to a high level politician and then give us the chance to nab him while he himself is in the act would he?

Q: The other allegation against the Commission is that the government uses it as a sort of guillotine to prosecute anyone who is against them?
That is completely wrong. The media must give the message to the people that we are doing our job independently. Look at the last few raids that we have carried out; these show that we are completely independent.

Q: Justice, how many Ministers are currently under probe?
We can’t divulge that because there is a secrecy clause. That is there to protect the people; once investigations commence we cannot divulge the names, because some of these complaints can be bogus, and could have been made with malicious intent by the complainant.
If we do divulge the names it will tarnish the reputation of both the alleged suspect and his family for life. So that is why we adhere to this secrecy clause.

Q: But Justice, Can you confidently tell us that the Commission is not being used by the government to take revenge against those who oppose them?
Of course I could. I could give you many examples. The Commission is completely independent and will not falter and no one can use us against any other person.
Once there is a complaint we investigate it and only if there is material or evidence do we take action against these individuals.
 

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  Comments - 1

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  • punchinilame Thursday, 12 December 2013 04:45 PM

    This interview appears to be one where the questions are
    framed for a propaganda purpose - a white-washed inter-view!


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