Hikka 2009: Missing arm bands expose doctored pics

The police said that the absence of complimentary arm bands given to those who had visited the recent 4-day Hikkaduwa Beach Fest had helped investigators to rule out the possibility of nude and semi-nude pictures posted on the internet having been taken there.

A senior police official told The Island that none of the men and women posing nude wore the arm bands. According to him, a set of pictures had been e-mailed to Tourism Development Minister Faizer Mustapha on two different days (Aug. 14 and 16, 2009). This followed the non-Cabinet minister’s statement that the pictures could not have been taken at the Hikka Beach Fest after a section of the press attacked the government over the event.

According to the CID, an analysis of the e-mails revealed that they originated from the Alcohol and Dug Information Centre (ADIC), serviced by the Sri Lanka Telecom. The e-mails had been sent from thenationsl@yahoo.com. The police said that the premises were searched on a magisterial order.

Executive Director of ADIC Pubudu Sumanasekera was not available for comment.

The official said that once investigators had identified the ADIC office situated at No: 40/18, Park road, Colombo 5 as the location from where the e-mails originated, they were able to quickly identify the suspects. The police arrested three suspects, Amaranath Oswald Bandarathenna, Malith Pradeep Silva and Palluyaguruge Derick Samantha Guruge-all employees of ADIC on a charge of computer crimes action and the distribution of nude and semi-nude pictures. They had been remanded till October 6 by Colombo Chief Magistrate Nishantha Hapuarachchi.

The police said that subsequent investigations had revealed that an employee of the Tourism Ministry, too, e-mailed nude and semi nude pictures.

The government employee identified as Lakmal Sunasinghe, too, had been remanded till October 6 by the same Magistrate. The police also charged him with malicious fabrication and distribution of nude photographs Government sources said that there were interested parties bent on undermining the government. This could be part of their strategy, sources said adding that pro-JVP Lanka launched a scathing attack on the government on the basis of these doctored pictures.

The police said that ADIC employees had doctored pictures taken in 2006 allegedly in Dubai using hi-tech equipment at the office even before Hikkaduwa Beach Festival 2009. Sources said that ADIC employees had visited the festival though they failed to capture any sexually explicit photographs.

If found guilty, all four face up to 5 years in prison.

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