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Sunday, 14 February 2016





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Storm over FCID tea cup

The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), subject to much criticism due to the nature of the investigations it carries out against those responsible for financial irregularities during the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, completes its first anniversary this month.

Members of the joint opposition seek divine assistance to defeat the FCID at a temple in Ratnapura Pic: Courtesy

Though the setting up of the FCID was gazetted on February 14, 2015 following the Cabinet decision taken two days earlier, the Division proper came into operation on February 26, with the then Minister of Public Security and Law and Order , John Amarathunga, ceremonially opening the office at Kalawil Place, Colombo-03.

One would think the legality of the Division, was a non-issue. Yet the arrest of Lieutenant Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the second son of former President and now the Kurunegala District UPFA MP, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has turned the FCID into a ‘whipping boy’ for the self declared ‘joint opposition’, who have embarked on an aggressive campaign to discredit the investigative body and cast doubts about its legality.

Their campaign took a brief albeit twist detour last week when the members of the ‘joint opposition’ sought divine assistance in their discrediting endeavour, and smashed coconuts at the Seenigama Devalaya, a place famous among the vengeful seeking to invoke divine wrath on any and all that have done them wrong.

Political influence

The two pronged ‘joint opposition’ attack on the FCID questions the legality of it formation and the political influence it wields. Both issues are dismissed by the government, other political parties and civil organisations in the forefront of anti corruption campaign, all of who support the FCID and its ongoing inquiries as they think it has been established within the legal framework of the country.

Technically the law enforcement agency of the government and functions a subsidiary agency of Sri Lanka Police Service, the FCID comes under the direct purview of the Inspector General of Police (IGP). Like any other division of the Police Department, established in terms of the provisions of Section 55 of the Police Ordinance, with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers, cases investigated by the FCID are those referred to it by the IGP for investigations.

The criticism levelled against the FCID is based on the gazette notification on the setting up of the Division and the manner in which complaints are referred to the Deputy Inspector General in charge of the FCID by the Anti Corruption Committee Secretariat (ACCS). The clause that the Secretariat can refer special cases to the DIG in charge of the FCID has been excessively highlighted by the ‘joint opposition’ and is the basis for their criticism.

As explained by government in May 2015, the ACCS was established on a Cabinet decision to co-ordinate and facilitate the functions of the Anti Corruption Committee (ACC), a Cabinet Sub-Committee headed by the Prime Minister, setup, also a decision taken by the Cabinet, on January 21, 2015. The ACC is a mechanism set up by the Executive Council established during 100-day program of the cohabitation government formed after Maitiripala Sirisena was elected President.

Facilitate inquiries

However, the Executive Council and the Anti Corruption Committee are both non-existent at present, although the Anti Corruption Committee Secretariat continues to coordinate and facilitate inquiries into public complaints on corruption.

According to the government explanation, neither the Financial Crimes Investigation Division of the Police Department nor the Anti-Corruption Committee Secretariat are controlled by the Cabinet Sub-committee on Anti-Corruption by any means, although the progress of the investigations carried out not only by the FCID but also by the other law enforcement agencies is reviewed once a week so as to ensure effective law enforcement.

Explaining the exact situation relating to the Anti Corruption Committee Secretariat, Director Ananda Wijepala, told the Sunday Observer their activities do not, in any manner, influence the investigations conducted by the FCID.

“Whatever the terms included in the gazette notification, the Secretariat does not refer any case directly to the DIG in charge of the FCID. The cases are always referred to the IGP, who then refers them to the FCID for investigations,” he elaborated.

The role of the Anti Corruption Committee Secretariat is to receive all sorts of the complaints from the public and forward them to the relevant agencies for inquiries, he said, adding that one Additional Solicitor General from the Attorney General’s Department is tasked with reviewing the complaints and recommending to which agency it should be referred to.

“There is no politics involved in this process. All the complaints the Secretariat receive from various political parties and also against government ministers have been referred for inquiries and investigations,” he claimed.

Complaints received

According to senior Police officers attached to the FCID, the Division not only investigates the complaints received through the Anti Corruption Committee Secretariat, they also inquire into complaints received by the Police stations across the country and those directly received by the IGP.

The gazette notification issued on the setting up of the FCID is not the law governing it, but the usual procedures of the Police Department is adopted when conducting investigations, said a senior FCID official on conditions of anonymity, adding, “Therefore, no one can point finger at us for conducting inquiries on the directives of the government.”

According to FCID sources, during the past one year, the FCID has received more than 230 complaints. They have completed investigations on 35 complaints at present. Four cases have already been filed against those responsible for financial irregularities.

Four cases

Cases have so far been filed against former Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, on the misappropriation of Divineguma Development Department fund, former Minister Johnston Fernando for the misappropriation of Sathosa funds for election campaigning, former Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and former Chairman of Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, Anusha Pelpita for using Rs. 600 million in public funds to distribute ‘sil redi’ during the Presidential Election campaign.

The case against the former Presidential Secretary was taken up on Friday for its first hearing and other cases will also be taken for hearing in the future.

The FCID is awaiting directions from the Attorney General’s Department on 31 other cases, investigations into which have been finalised. Among the pending cases awaiting directions from the AGs Department, is the case against Gampaha District UPFA MP, Prasanna Ranthunga, on land issue, former Minister Wimal Weerawansa for using Rs.14 million to print diaries, former Defence Secretary Gotabhya Rajapaksa for using Rs.91 million for the construction of a monument in memory of his mother and father in Weeraketiya, Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa for allegedly misusing Ceylon Petroleum Corporation funds, former Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage for misappropriating Rs.39 million, the former Port Authority Chairman for releasing 573 Port Authority employees for election campaign work during the last Presidential Election.

The FCID, though having a skeleton staff of 65 investigating officers including five ASPs, five Chief Inspectors and 11 Inspectors, continue to conduct investigations under the directive of Deputy Inspector General Ravi Waidyalankara and FCID Director, ASP Aruna Premashantha.

Dismissing the allegations of the ‘joint opposition’ the FCID officials point out that if their investigations are driven on political directions they could have made lot of arrests by now, based on the evidence they have gathered. What they are doing, the officials claim, is conducting investigations in a proper and professional manner to ensure that the people responsible for crimes are arrested in accordance with the prevailing laws of the country. They also point of that if the legality of the FCID is challenged, the Supreme Court will give its verdict after considering around 10 petitions filed in the Supreme Court challenging it.

Govt should follow normal laws - Dinesh Gunawardena, UPFA MP

The FCID, which was set up a year ago is based on the gazette notification issued to empower special regulations under the Police Ordinance. It also mentions political interference in the conduct of the FCID, if one reads the regulations. The Prime Minister also advises by way of a committee in the FCID, which never happened before except during the draconian emergency regulations used by the UNP in the dark days of the 80s and 90s.

Our position is there are enough laws in the land under which any investigation can be done in the accepted norms on democracy and human rights. Therefore any investigation should be brought under the normal laws that exist and action to be taken accordingly, if there are grounds for such action.

I must say this was not agreed to by the parliamentary group of the UPFA chaired by the President when he met us when the 19th Amendment was discussed. The government has not kept to any of its promises. This is not only political witch hunting, public officials and private sector officials are also being dragged under this special regulation. Therefore, we call upon the government to follow the normal laws that have been approved by the land in the normal course of justice for which Sri Lanka has a long experience and respect.

The joint opposition never said not to inquire under the laws which are already there. There are enough laws under which the complaints can be inquired into.

There is no question about FCID’s legality -J.C. Weliamuna

Those who are protesting against the FCID are doing so not because of the legality but because the mandate given to it to investigate large scale corruption. FCID is yet another Police Division established by the IGP in terms of the Police Ordinance after Cabinet has given its approval. So there is no question about its legality, it is like any other Police Division where investigations are conducted by the Police officers under normal law and there are no special laws to investigate those crimes.

The FCID is investigating the complaints that are coming directly to the IGP or to the Anti Corruption Committee Secretariat and that Committee Secretariat basically comprises civil servants who understand financial frauds. “They are not investigating, but what they are doing is looking into the complaints and referring them to the IGP and he refers them to the relevant division of the Police Department. That is not uncommon.

There should not be any difference between the previous government and this government. They should not only take the last government to task but I am sure once this institution is well established, which is still happening, they will go into the complaints against this government also

Financial investigations are not like investigating murders or any other crimes. It takes sometimes months and years. It is a very complex diligent procedure and they are taking that fairly seriously and I am satisfied of the way they are working and CID and FCID are functioning.


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