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Fort Magistrate questions why officer probing MIG case has been transferred

ECONOMYNEXT – The Fort Magistrate has issued a notice asking why officers who were investigating the MIG case had been transferred out of the CID when the former Sri Lankan envoy to Russia Udayanga Weeratunge was produced in court on Monday.

Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake said the conduct of a complex investigation such as this should be continued by the officers who were in charge of it for the last five years.

 The Magistrate also faulted the CID officers for not following procedure when filing this case under the Public Property Act.

When dealing with public funds if the amount was more than Rs 25,000 there has to be an ASP’s report attached, Dissanayake said. “Did you not know that US dollars 7mn which is the amount mentioned in the file is more than Rs.25,000?” he asked.

The case pertains to the purchase of MIG fighters for the Sri Lanka Air Force.

ASP CID Vijitha Perera, IP Sanjeeva, and Chief Inspector Chandima Arumaperuma appeared for the prosecution along with Additional Solicitor General Thusitha Mudalige. Weeratunge was represented by Anil Silva PC with Rasanga Harischandra and Dayle Guneratne.

When proceedings began the Magistrate asked several questions from the CID.

Court: This case was first reported on 2015/03/26. The last time was on 2020/01/20. It was reported by Chief Inspector Nihal Francis. Is that officer now not involved in the investigation?

CID: He has been transferred to the Negombo Division and is working there

Court: Who is the investigating officer?

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CID: IP Sanjeeva

Court: After doing this investigation for 5 years why has he been transferred?

CID: Not only him, my Lord, 50 officers have been transferred.

Court:  Can the officer investigating the case carry on without that officer? From the beginning, no one has signed this case. It has been signed only when the suspect was produced. Is this the level the Police has fallen to? Don’t you think it is better if Francis was here?

CID: That officer has not got the assistance of any other. That has become a big problem for us. Normally at least two others would have assisted him.

Court: I have to ask the IGP and the CID why Nihal Francis was removed from the investigation. Can Nihal Francis be brought to continue the investigation? .It is stated that the suspect has to be questioned for at least ten days and that shows how complex this investigation is.

CID: We have 33 files, they have to be examined.

Additional Solicitor General Mudalige: First we need to record the statement from the suspect. Due to the complex nature of the case we will need some time.

Court: Under what charge is this suspect being produced? The Director CID has stated that he does not know under which Law this case is being filed. It shows that he has not read even one ‘B’ report.

ASG: In the ‘B’ report filed on 2016/10/11 it states this suspect is being produced under Sections 454, 457, 400 and Act 12 of 1982 Public Property.

Court: That is the issue. According to the report filed to court the loss suffered by the government is US dollars 14 million. I asking whether the CID does not know that this sum is bigger than RS 25,000. Has the ASP report been filed?

ASG: No Sir, we will not file the ASP report today.

Court: Not now, not then. When the loss of public property is US dollars 7 million can’t you think that it is more that Rs 25,000?

ASG: We will seek the advice of the AG’s Department

Court: Are you going to ask the AG whether US dollars 7 Mn is more that Rs. 25,000? A person who knows nothing is investigating this case. They don’t know what the charges are. It is a problem that this case has come so far.

ASG: This suspect was brought here under the Extradition Law from Dubai. We have recorded one statement from him. We need to study his statement as there are problems with it. We can’t fault IP Sanjeeva. Francis and Dayaratne were the officers on the case. I will make a note that this investigation should go forward by co-opting these two officers. Please give an order to the Acting IGP to do so sir.

Court: I can remove an officer from an investigation but I cannot appoint someone.

Thereafter the Magistrate issued an order asking the Acting IGP why officers SSP Pavitra Dayaratne and Francis are not involved in the investigation and that appointing a new officer as the investigator has created issues.

Defence Counsel then applied for bail which was refused and Weeratunge was remanded until the 26th of February. (Colombo, February 18, 2020)

-Arjuna Ranawana

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