Giving 'prosecuting power' to Bribery Commission big mistake: AG
AG's Dept to prosecute COPE cases?

Attorney General C. R. de Silva yesterday expressed the view that the Bribery and Corruption Commission should never have been given power to prosecute.

Responding to The Island queries, he sad earlier the prosecution of Bribery and Corruption cases had been handled by the Attorney General's Department. The decision to empower the Commission to take legal action during the PA administration had been a big mistake, he said.

This was done through an Act of Parliament unanimously approved by the then ruling coalition and the UNP-led Opposition.

Acting on a recent presidential directive, the Attorney General said they would in consultation with the Bribery and Corruption Commission identify major cases which would be prosecuted by the AG. "We are in the process of identifying the cases," he said. He didn't rule out the possibility of his Department taking over the prosecution of COPE suspects. "We'll represent the Commission at High Court and Court of Appeal," he said, emphasising they were yet to decide on the cases. He expressed confidence this could be finalised before end of this month.

The Commission last year initiated investigations on COPE findings following a complaint lodged by Parliament. According to the findings, the country had lost billions of rupees due to corruption and fraudulent activities involving the private and pubic sectors. Politicians of the UNP Democratic Group and top officials were among the persons named in the COPE report.

The Attorney General said they would also explore the possibility of strengthening the Commission. He stressed the importance of acquiring the necessary technical facilities to facilitate investigations.

The move to involve the AG's Department in the process comes several months after the removal of Director General of Bribery and Corruption Commission Piyasena Ranasinghe. Ms Lakshimi Jayawickrema has succeeded him.

SSP Neville Guruge, Director Investigations of the Commission said his investigators had completed inquiries on two of the 13 institutions named by the COPE. "At the moment we have about 1,500 cases on our hands," he said. The Commission and the AG were in the process of working out an arrangement, he said.

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