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The great FCID fiasco



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by C.A.Chandraprema


The FCID which is incorrectly referred to by everybody as the ‘Financial Crimes Invstigation Division’ but is acutally the ‘Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division’, has ended up like the Kobbekaduwa Commission of the 1990s which was set up by the Chandrika Kumaratunga government to investigate the death of Maj Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Brigadier Vijaya Wimalaratne and others in a landmine blast at Araly Point in Jaffna.


The chief witness in that Commission a woman by the name of Rohini Hathurusinghe took the Commission and the naïve judge who headed it Tissa Dias Bandaranaike on a wild goose chase with a convoluted story about how Maj Gen Vijya Wimalaratne had planted the bomb on the vehicle in order to kill Kobbekaduwa but had fallen victim to it himself.  


For months, the Commission and the public lapped up the sensational nonsense spewed forth by Hathurusinghe who told a tale about a pro-UNP army officer wanting to assassinate a pro-SLFP army officer. Pro- government goons had even torn down the statue of Maj. Gen Vijaya Wimalaratne in the Kadawatha town. Later when the whole story was found to be a hoax, the chief witness ended up stating in so many words at a press conference that the father of her unborn child was the head of the Kobbekaduwa Commission! The same kind of fate seems to have befallen the FCID. Waidyalankara has been sacked for fraud and corruption after four years of heading the Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division – a fiasco can’t get any better than that.


The first time the general public became aware of the existence of a DIG named Ravi Waidyalankara was in February 2013 when the then minister Maithripala Sirisena’s son Daham Sirisena had attacked his son Asela Waidyalankara on the Passikudah beach when the latter had objected to the former’s friends taking photographs of his wife. Suddenly Ravi Waidyalankara became a household name in the country. He was appointed as the head of the FCID after the yahapalana government came into power.


The Colombo Telegraph reported that Waidyalankara had been sacked for sabotaging of investigations of some high profile investigations into financial misappropriation by top officials in the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration particularly into the MiG deal. Just days before the sacking took place, the government owned and UNP controlled Sunday Observer reported in a full length feature article titled "Panic stations over FCID chief" that on the night of January 17, Waidyalankara, had allegedly taken copies of highly sensitive investigative material to travel to Singapore on a personal visit. According to this story, Waidyalankara had requested overseas leave for medical reasons and had taken some official reports into a pen drive to take overseas to Singapore, where several co-conspirators in the alleged MiG deal are domiciled.


New storyline being developed in a hurry


This story about Waidyalankara being sacked due to suspicions of having passed on or tried to pass on sensitive information to suspects in the MiG deal investigation appear to be nothing but a face saving move by the government to explain away the embarrassment stemming from the fact that the police officer who was handpicked by the yahapalana government to head their Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division has now had to be sacked for fraud and corruption. In a move reminiscent of the Stalinist purges in Russia SDIG Waidyalankara is now being portrayed as a Rajapaksa loyalist. The afore mentioned Sunday Observer article even claimed that  "Waidyalankara also provoked alarm in law enforcement circles when he was seen at former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s residence, casually dressed in a pair of shorts, as Rajapaksa was sworn in as Prime Minister on October 26, 2018."


 Mahinda Rajapaksa was sworn in as Prime Minister on October 26, 2018 at the Presidential Secretariat by President Maithripala Sirisena. What is the likelihood that a senior police officer would turn up for such an occasion in the Presidential Secretariat in a pair of shorts? So we see that the government owned press is cooking up a new storyline hurriedly and tripping up in their haste. Furthermore, if Waidyalankara wanted to relay information about the investigations being done by the FCID to any party local or foreign, with today’s technology it could have been done in a flash. The FCID in any case had lines open to the entire world permanently. A person none other than President Maithripala Sirisena’s own media director Wasanthapriya Ramanayake told this writer that after he had given a statement to the FCID a comprehensive report on all that he had said had appeared on Lanka e News before he got home after giving the statement. 


That mind you was at a time when Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe were running the country together harmoniously. Lanka e News is operated from Britain. So the FCID always had good international connectivity. If Waidyalankara wanted to send sensitive information to Singapore, why would he need to take it on to a pen drive and take that physically to Singapore? There are umpteen ways in which he could have sent it to Singapore in a flash and with complete anonymity too. According to the Sunday Observer it was this trip to Singapore that had set the alarm bells ringing about Waidyalankara. Under all governments, the Sunday Observer has had a tendency to assume that the public are poonac eating bovines and things are no different today.  


The fact that the government owned media was trying to cook up a story to explain away the government’s embarrassment becomes clear when they claim that it was the then IGP N.K. Illangakoon and the government in February 2015 who had handpicked Waidyalankara to head the newly formed FCID. This has been stated in such a manner as to convey the impression that it was the former IGP Illangakoon who had selected Waidyalankara to head the FCID and that the then government had just tagged along. The actual fact however was that it was the yahapalana government that had handpicked Waidyalankara for the job and the then IGP just acquiesced. The FCID was formed specifically to investigate complaints channeled to them through a Cabinet Subcommittee headed by the Prime Minister and by the Secretariat of that Cabinet Subcommittee.  


Besides, when Ravi Waidyalankara retired from the police service in May 2018, the good governance government gave him a service extension against the advice of the IGP Pujith Jayasundera who had recommended that he be sent on retirement pending investigations against him by the police Special Investigations Unit and the Bribery Commission. The reason why Ravi Waidyalankara was a darling of the yahapalana government was because he is believed to have been removed from the position of Director of the CID in November 2009 by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa for having conducted investigations into various crimes committed by several ministers and businessmen close to President Rajapaksa. Waidyalankara was then a police SSP.


 So he was handpicked by the yahapalana government because he was believed to have an axe to grind against the Rajapaksas. Now this government after having given him an extension even against the advice of the present IGP, has sacked Waidyalankara ostensibly because he was in league with the Rajapaksas! Who in his right mind would believe such rubbish?


Set a thief to catch a thief!


 


The fact is that there were serious allegations against Ravi Waidyalankara even before he took up the position of FCID chief. Those charges were not even remotely connected to the Rajapaksas. About a month after he was elevated to that position by the yahapalana government, on 13, March 2015, an independent journalist named Muhammed Fazal interviewed Waidyalankara. This interview can be viewed on youtube on the following link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5vNPS0axBw In this interview, Fazal asks him some routine questions about the mandate of the FCID and other matters and towards the end, broaches the question of certain allegations against him. He is asked whether he knows a woman by the name of Thushari Menaka Fernando and is shown a photograph of the woman. Waidyalankara admits that he knows the woman as the wife of a friend of his.


 Then Fazal asks Waidyalankara about certain shady deals whereby this woman had defrauded sums running into a few hundreds of millions from various people. Waidyalankara denies any knowledge about such deals and only states that some of his friends had told him about these doings and that he had advised them to complain to the proper authorities. When asked whether he had helped this woman when he was the Director CID, Waidyalankara denied any wrongdoing. Then Fazal introduces several video clips of individuals who claim to have been defrauded by this Thushari Menaka Fernando. Among them is a UK based doctor by the name of Asoka Thenabadu who claimed that he was cheated of a sum of around Rs. 12 million and that Ravi Waidyalankara had been introduced to him by Thushari Menaka Fernando at the Royal Colombo Golf Club and that the latter had addressed the former in a very familiar manner as ‘Hi Ravi’.


 The other victims who did not reveal their names or show their faces also claimed to have been introduced to Waidyalankara by this woman. To Waidyalankara’s credit it must be stated that he answered the probing questions without losing his cool. Due credit must be given to Muhammad Fazal for having the courage to question Waidyalankara in that manner so soon after he was elevated to a powerful new position by a new government. It has to be stated that the web media always had a poor opinion of Waidyalankara. In April 2014, after the latter had become a household name after his son had a spat with Maithripala Sirisena’s son on the Passikudah beach, Lanka e News carried an article titled "Fornicating DIG caught red handed rewarded –Now Police HQ chief..!"


It was stated in this article that when police officers raided a guest house that was being run illegally on the coastal strip of Colombo a DIG along with a woman police officer attached to the police headquarters had been found in a compromising position. It was said that the Police Department had interdicted the woman police officer, sparing the senior officer involved. Lanka e News went on to state that under the laws of the country, a high rung officer of the government service cannot have illicit sex or indulge in immoral activities because those constitute a disgrace and insult to the service and therefore if he is involved in such escapades, an investigation has to be be compulsorily conducted against that officer according to the establishment code. He ought to be interdicted too in the meanwhile.


Though the legal stipulations are very clear it was only the junior woman police officer who was victimized in this instance. LeN alleged that as a result of the ‘lustful’ involvements of this DIG, six women police officers had faced interdiction orders. In the youtube interview mentioned earlier journalist Fazal did ask Waidyalankara whether he had any issues relating to involvement with female police officers, and Waidyalankara denied any such involvement. Despite being a pro-yahapalana and pro-UNP website, Lanka-e-News has been consistent in its opposition to Ravi Waidyalankara. On June 21,.2015 after Waidyalankara had been made the director of the CID, Lanka-e-News  made the allegation that a group of unscrupulous lawyers affiliated to the Rajapaksas were taking advantage of certain weaknesses at the FCID and that the lawyer’s fees are shared with  the higher ups at the FCID.


Lanka e News had a blistering article against Waidyalankara after he was sacked as well accusing him of having accumulated a great deal of wealth through illegal means – which was by extorting money from various members of the Rajapaksa government who were facing investigation by the FCID. So one can say that Lanka e News had opposed Waidyalankara before, during and after the latter’s stint as the head of the FCID. The interesting thing is that unlike the UNP controlled and government owned Sunday Observer, which insinuates that Waidyalankara was doing things for the Rajapakasa camp as a loyalist, LeN states the exact opposite by saying that money was being extorted by Waidyalankara from the Rajapaksa loyalists whose cases were being investigated by the FCID.


According to both the Sunday Observer (SO) and Lanka e News, the FCID was from the very beginning a den of thieves. The SO stated in the above mentioned article that preceded the sacking of Waidyalankara that when the FCID was first set up, the latter had handpicked several police officers to serve in the new outfit that ‘many’ of those handpicked by Waidyankara were marred by allegations of corruption. ‘Several had been previously removed from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) because of corruption allegations’. For example, a Police Sergeant named Ajith Sudantha Gunawardena was serving in the Counterfeit Currency Branch (CCB) of the CID in 2011 when another officer of that branch was assigned a credit card fraud investigation.  


This CID team worked with the credit card company to locate the nine suspected fraudsters in a house in Boralesgamuwa. Upon their arrest, the suspects were informed by the CID officers that they were from the Counterfeit Currency Branch or CCB. The suspects thereafter complained about their arrest, stating that they had already bribed Sergeant Ajith Sudantha Gunawardena and the officer in charge of the branch, Chief Inspector Serasinghe, with televisions and ovens that were fruits of the credit card fraud.


The startled officers conducted further investigations and arrested Sergeant Gunawardena, who was interdicted and transferred out of the CID. The officers did not have standing to arrest their own OIC, Inspector Serasinghe, who however was also interdicted and removed from the CID. The Sunday Observer states that both Gunawardena and Serasinghe were later among those handpicked by Waidyalankara to join the FCID in 2015. The CID was unable to further investigate them for bribery, as current law bars the police from conducting investigations into bribery or corruption, leaving this power only to the bribery commission. As of date, the Bribery Commission has not brought charges against either Gunawardena or Serasinghe based on the investigative material unearthed by the CID in 2011.


That is what the Sunday Observer had to say about the FCID four years after it was established. We assume that because it is a government owned newspaper, they would have got their information from the police department itself. We are indeed seeing a replay of the Kobbekaduwa Commission fiasco. When you combine the FCID fiasco and the Central Bank bond scam with other great rackets like the coal tender, what we have here is a complete kleptocracy masquerading as yahapalanaya.


A fitting end to an abomination


 


The very concept of the FCID was from the very beginning, objectionable – a police unit that functions directly under politicians to harass their opponents. The Gazette establishing the FCID under Article 55 (Chapter 53) of the Police Ordinance issued on February 13, 2015 clearly stated that complaints would be forwarded to the Inspector General of Police for investigation by the Secretariat established by the Cabinet Sub Committee under the patronage of the Hon. Prime Minister and, "in addition to that, the special complaints are forwarded by the Cabinet Subcommittee directly to the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the Division". So we see that a cabinet subcommittee could directly forward complaints to the DIG in charge of the FCID. If that is not a political Gestapo, what is?


The Fraud and Corruption Investigation Division set up under this gazette had the power to investigate the following crimes: i) Grievous financial crimes, corruption and massive unauthorized projects. ii) Crimes against public funds and property.iii) Grievous crimes against national security, public finance, health and environment.iv) Unlawful enrichment and misuse of official powers. investigating into the money laundering funding of terrorists and illegal transactions.


The Anti-Corruption Committee under which the FCID was to function was headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and comprises of Ministers Mangala Samaraweera, Patali Champika Ranawaka, and Rauff Hakeem, parliamentarians Anura Kumara Dissanayake, R. Sampanthan, M. A. Sumanthiran and Democratic Party Leader Sarath Fonseka along with President’s Counsel Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, J. C. Weliamuna and Malik Samarawickrema. The Urgent Response Committee of this Anti-Corruption Committee was to function with JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake as the Coordinator.


So far as this writer is aware, there never was a unit like the FCID in the police department even under the much maligned Sirima Bandaranaike government of the 1970s and the JRJ and Premadasa years of the 1980s and early 1990s. Prsident Premadasa had an unofficial investigation unit under a retired DIG by the name of Lawrence which was known as the ‘Lawrence mafia’ but this was not within the police department. When details of the Lawrence mafia were published in the Sunday Times in the wake of President Premadasa’s assassination, Lawrence had come panic stricken to the Sunday Times office saying "Mama poos petiyek wage ahinsaka minihek." The FCID which was started to investigate fraud and corruption is now itself being investigated for fraud and corruption. This is indeed a fitting finale for an institution that should never have existed in the first place.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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