Colombo Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake yesterday reprimanded some of the CID officers while emphasising that the manner in which they acted when Udayanga Weeratunga was arrested and produced in Court in connection with the alleged MIG-27 deal was unusual and questionable because they had failed to follow the procedure laid down under the Public Property Act.
As such he refused to release the suspect on bail considering the gravity of the US$7 million loss caused to the government.
The Magistrate said he was not prepared to satisfy the sardonic pleasure of the prosecution because the remanding of a suspect was not a police matter but a legal process.
At the outset of the inquiry, the Magistrate pointedly questioned the CID officers regarding the removal of the previous investigating officer of the FCID, Inspector Nihal Francis from the ongoing investigations.
Magistrate Dissanayake: First, I need to know why IP Nihal Francis was not conducting the prosecution.
CID: Your honor, he has been transferred from the FCID to the Negombo region.
Magistrate: Who is in charge of the investigation now?
CID: IP Sanjeewa is conducting the investigations now.
Magistrate: IP Francis has been conducting this inquiry since March 26, 2015, so why was he suddenly transferred?
CID: That we don’t know your honor, but he had been transferred so he is no longer in charge of the investigation.
Magistrate: I am concerned about his absence, as he was the one who handled all the documents relating to this investigation. I may have to consider this fact when I consider bail to the suspect.
Magistrate: Does the new investigator have a thorough knowledge about this investigation?
CID: He is working on it your honor.
Magistrate: Earlier, the CID director said statements had to be recorded from the suspect and that process may take even ten days. So how you record statements without fully knowing about the investigation?
Magistrate: What has happened to the Sri Lanka Police?
Magistrate: Is it not desirable to obtain the assistance of the previous investigator as soon as possible to avoid any difficulties?
CID: There is no objection from our side to obtain such assistance from him your honor.
At this point the Magistrate highlighted the legal powers vested in him under Section 119 of the Criminal Procedure Code to remove an investigator from an investigation. (Under the CPC, a Magistrate can remove an investigator or take over the investigations)
However the Magistrate observed that it was more practical to first ask the acting IGP whether there were any barriers to re-appoint the previous investigator to this case.
DSG Thusith Mudalige and SC Udara Karunathilake agreed to the views expressed by the magistrate.
The Magistrate then directed the Court Registrar to send a letter to the acting IGP asking whether he can re-appoint IP Nihal Francis and his supervisor at the FCID, P. Dayaratne to the magisterial inquiry being conducted into the US$14 million loss caused to the government in the MIG-27 deal.
At this point the Magistrate said, “If the re-appointment doesn’t happen, he can remove the current investigators until the previous one is reappointed”
At yesterday’s inquiry, the Magistrate was specifically attentive to the offences over which the suspect was produced in court.
When questioned by the Magistrate, Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige and State Counsel Udara Karunathilake said during the previous investigation there had been several reports filed in court indicating the offences under the Penal Code (for Cheating), Public Property Act and the Money Laundering Act.
The Magistrate then pointed out that yesterday’s B report itself contained a clause regarding the offences under the Public Property Act (PPA) and explained that when a person is produced in Court for an offence committed under the PPA, the Police were required to file a certificate signed by an ASP if the amount committed under the PPA exceeded Rs.25,000.
(If the suspect is produced under the PPA with a relevant certificate, a magistrate cannot release him on bail unless under special circumstances)
However, it was found that the CID had not filed such a certificate even yesterday.
Magistrate: I read the case docket thoroughly. According to the investigation so far the Sri Lankan Government had paid $14 million during the MIG-27 deal but only $7 million had been received to the Ukrainian Company. Apparently, the loss caused to the Government is $7 million. So, I cannot understand why the CID did not consider this as an offence which had exceeded Rs.25,000 under the PPA and therefore file the relevant certificate signed by the ASP.
Magistrate: I cannot understand this behavior by the CID. It is clear that loss is $7million. So, why did the CID neglected to file this certificate?
CID: Your honor. We have been appointed as the investigators only in January, 2020 so we are still working on the investigation and the offences, because this investigation was earlier handled by a single investigator.
Magistrate: I am asking you why the certificate is not filed if there is a concern about the Public Property Act. This offence was there for five years during this investigation and how come it got changed when the suspect was arrested?
The Magistrate criticised the remarks made by the CID Director on the previous day when producing the suspect in court.
“The CID Director said earlier that he cannot ascertain the laws against the offence and therefore need to consult the Attorney General’s Department. The CID does not need to consult the AG during an investigation, if the offence had clearly transpired from its findings. Here, he should have studied the investigation first,” he said.
The Magistrate then asked the CID whether they were waiting to consult the AG to clarify the fact that $7million was above Rs.25 000? “People of the Country are watching you” he said looking towards the CID.
In the meantime, President’s Counsel Anil Silva appearing for the suspect argued that the CID had not filed the relevant certificate rightly or wrongly under the PPA and thus, the remaining alleged offences fell under the normal Bail Act. He said therefore, his client could be released on bail considering the fact that the investigation was not over.
PC Silva said there was an issue regarding the jurisdiction of the court to consider the offences, which are committed apparently outside Sri Lanka. He pointed out the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate political victimization during 2015-2019.
However, disagreeing with the PC, the Magistrate said according to him the previous investigation was actually ‘satisfactory and thorough’.
Subsequently, the Magistrate considering bail to the suspect reiterated the unusual behavior by the CID for not filing the relevant certificate under the PPA when producing suspect Weeratunga in court.
“If the CID had studied the investigation properly they could have easily identified the offence as committed under the PPA, hence, the behavior of the CID is unusual and strange,” the Magistrate said.
Citing some superior court judgments, he said, “a Magistrate should not act to satisfy the sardonic pleasure of the prosecution….and that remanding a suspect is not a police procedure but a court process”
He considered Section 14 (1) b of the Bail Act “that the particular gravity of, and public reaction to, the alleged offence may give rise to public disquiet” and said that $7 million is considerably a huge amount as it could be regarded with much gravity, thus rejected bail to the suspect.
At the end of the proceedings, the Magistrate advised the CID saying, “Don’t tell the court that the CID need the Attorney General’s instructions if you are not complying and obeying such instructions because it was evident during this inquiry that there are some disagreement between the AG’s Department and the CID. If there is any such disagreement solve it as soon as possible”. (Shehan Chamika Silva)
TripleX Tuesday, 18 February 2020 03:18 AM
Come on 6.9, there are still some with back bone, who will follow the law.
neil alwis Tuesday, 18 February 2020 03:55 AM
tough magistrate - well done!
Buddhist Tuesday, 18 February 2020 04:13 AM
Wow at least it appears we have a honest Judge unlike the Attorney General.
Andrew Silva Tuesday, 18 February 2020 05:08 AM
Hats off to Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake. We Sri Lankans stand by you for your unwavering knowledge, skill of your status,and the courage to execute them with out fear and favour. We need more lawyers like you Sir.
Thor Tuesday, 18 February 2020 05:56 AM
Orders from the top, sir!!!
Neil Tuesday, 18 February 2020 05:57 AM
Sri Lanka needs magistrates like this. He should take over the investigation if there is provisions. Hats off for you, Sir.
galbanis Tuesday, 18 February 2020 06:13 AM
At last some one with a Spine
C.K.Lankaputhra. Tuesday, 18 February 2020 06:17 AM
Great, grate. A Judge with a back bone. Three cheers to My Lord.
Jude Tuesday, 18 February 2020 06:43 AM
Your honour magistrate. Dissanayake!! The suspect highly connected to LANKAN Mafia family !!! So anything possible !!!???
Lankan Tuesday, 18 February 2020 06:54 AM
Oh thank god there are still some very brave people alive and well in this country. Hats off to Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake. Truly an honor. This is so encouraging. The President should publicly back these kind of brave acts. These type of bravery is what will lift our country out of this current mess and into a new era where we will start to trust institutions and systems. Mr. President do the right thing!
Samarakoon Bandara Tuesday, 18 February 2020 06:57 AM
I bow my head to the fearless and impartial judge. We need more judges of your calibre. May you be blessed!
Chris Tuesday, 18 February 2020 07:02 AM
Bravo to the magistrate for standing with the silent majority of the country who yearn for justice, irrespective of the defendant, political affiliations or which government is in power. Losing faith in our Police department, still bending the law
Abdul Hafeel Ahamed Abbas Tuesday, 18 February 2020 07:10 AM
A similer matter occurring in MC Maligakanda Case 29570 where contempt petition filed against Directors of Brown and Co PLC, Maradana Police was noticed to investigate. Police failed to investigate in gross disregard and disrespect to Hon. Magistrate and informed court the MO OIC transfered. Case is coming up tomorrow 19.02.2020 for the third time.
Jaffna Logic Tuesday, 18 February 2020 07:11 AM
This is the kind of Magistrate or a Judge we need in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately the majority of them are weak and corrupt, Actor Ranjan’s tapes gave a tip of the iceberg. On top of this, there is a disproportionate number of women in the judiciary but they are inherently not strong enough to deal with the corrupt CID.
Tun-Ga Tuesday, 18 February 2020 07:38 AM
So, that is how the authorities screw us!!!
Imtiaz Muhsin Tuesday, 18 February 2020 07:40 AM
Sambo Tuesday, 18 February 2020 07:58 AM
So it means he will be released very soon with no wrong doings and the CID officers will be at fault. What a lawless country we live in.
Nihal Fernando Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:15 AM
Well done Magistrate, you deserve bouquet of flowers for your unwavering stance in upholding the right thing and not give in to pressure from interested parties. We hope the judiciary will stand firm and punish this kind of thieves with political backing. The nation is watching!
Chux Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:21 AM
Very good your honor at least we have some respectable judges
Jude Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:34 AM
My honour!!! Things could get ugly and wild from here onwards !!.?? Yeah !!
Jude Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:37 AM
This suspect connected to high AND mighty !! Yeah!!
Devinda Uduwara Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:40 AM
We reiterate our respect and believe in judicature.
Terrence Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:44 AM
A spirit of Excellence without compromising a sacred duty of the Judiciary to meet out JUSTICE without any frills
Andrew Silva Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:49 AM
CID has exposed its nakedness. Is it for this sort of prosecution abilities that the public is paying your salaries. Shame on you. What can the poor ordinary people expect. Jail time I believe.
Sam Panditha Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:50 AM
The entire story of Udayanga return and the case is a fixed one. Recently Anura Kumara Dissanayake mentioned that the Government is using a "Washing machine" to get all friend's cases dismissed by badly filing cases. The plot is fully evident in this case. Hope the Hon Judge will have the courage to have a proper hearing.
Thomas Sam Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:54 AM
We still in Sri Lanka have Magistrates of this caliber upholding the law to the letter , and we are proud of him. Act without fear
Bandu Abey Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:59 AM
I am so proud of the judge. who was straight forward in pointing out at the weakness of the application of the rule of law by the CID and the haphazard handling of the CID by the police bosses, maybe to satisfy their masters. Sri Lanka needs more and more of this breed in every aspect of day to day life.
BuffaloaCitizen Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:12 AM
How long can this Judge's resistance last in the face of a President
johan Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:25 AM
He is the one should be given Chief Justice post
K.L Pathirana Tuesday, 18 February 2020 10:30 AM
Let's not be fooled by some of the one day court hearing, let's wait until the outcome of this case. Only then we can honestly comment whether the judiciary is impartial. It would be too easy to dress up the masses as stray cattle.
Sokrates Tuesday, 18 February 2020 10:47 AM
It looks like that Gota has to pay back the money from his Virgin Islands account.
Jaya Peiris Tuesday, 18 February 2020 10:54 AM
Not surprising, the CID has been ordered to dilute the case and the suspect has been told he can safely return now Jaya
Nimal Tuesday, 18 February 2020 11:38 AM
Your honor, Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake, you gave us a little hope to still trust in Sri Lanka's law. We admire you Hon. Sir. If the law is applied to all citizens equally, you gave a good opportunity to those who handle the law in this country to prove their honesty and integrity. We keep our eye open.
june macapagal Tuesday, 18 February 2020 01:03 PM
You are a great judge and you have done an excellent piece of work. You should have been the president of our country and if you take over the country things will definitely change and the wrong doers will have no place.
Dude Tuesday, 18 February 2020 01:30 PM
Who is fooling whom !
Kings men Tuesday, 18 February 2020 02:32 PM
Diplomatic Immunity does not apply for fraudesters and murderes .
vithura Tuesday, 18 February 2020 05:48 PM
Could not believe what I was reading, at last a man of the law! If other magistrates and judges can prove their mettle as this honourable man has, that will bring an end to the sorry state the Sri Lankan judiciary has been since the days Sarath N Silva was appointed to the bench!
Julampitiye Amaraya Tuesday, 18 February 2020 08:03 PM
This Bxxxx suspect is on of the cousins of President. So President will automatically back this crook. BUT WHO Is the other Suspect?...???. Millions Dollars question for millions $ crime.
Pronto Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:01 PM
the officer responsible for filing the B report without the signature and approval of an ASP should be charge sheeted for this dereliction of duty for dereliction of duty.
Renu Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:42 PM
Great Job done your Honor. Justice must prevail Get the right people who conducted the investigations and to testify as the public will know the truth . We salute you for being a straight you need to reprimand the guys who want to hide evidence, I am sure then Justice is done and has appeared to have been done
Renu Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:44 PM
Lets hope that the President sees the comments of the General public in this case
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