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Did not consider Mahindananda’s inherited property of 174 acres, tea factory as assets

Retired IP of the CID, Dias Padmasiri, giving testimony before Colombo High Court Judge Adithya Patabendige, as a witness, said        yesterday (15) that though details had come to light that Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage, who had functioned as the President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Labour Congress (SLFLC), had possessed 174 acres of tea and coconut estates, which had been bequeathed to him by his parents, such information had not been considered during the probe that was conducted against him by the CID.

He said the accused Minister had obtained the sum in question, Rs 3.9 million,  as a loan after having followed the due procedure, while the probe had revealed that Aluthgamage had repaid the said sum within a 90-day period. He opined that it was obvious to him that there had not been any misappropriation of funds during the transaction.

The witness made these submissions, to Justice Patabendige, while giving testimony in the case filed against Aluthgamage, who has been accused of the misappropriation of funds, while functioning as the President of the SLFLC.

Defence Lawyer, President’s Counsel Nalin Ladduwahetty, cross examining the witness, questioned him as to whether he was aware that the accused had possessed tea and coconut estates in areas such as Ratnapura (97 acres received from his mother) and at Nawalapitiya (44 acres received from his father).

The witness said that these details had come to light during the course of the probe but claimed that such information had not been used to aid the inquiry process as they had not looked into the Minister’s assets and liabilities. 

Ladduwahetty PC queried the witness as to whether the transaction of money had been approved by the Executive Committee of the SLFLC and whether in his eyes any wrongdoing had taken place. The witness failed to give a prompt answer to the question and this prompted the Judge to pose the same query to him and he then claimed that he had not seen any irregularity in the transaction.

Witness Padmasiri told the Court that the accused Minister had obtained the sum of Rs 3.9 million, through the adoption of due procedures and hence he had not seen any question or suspicions being raised in the transaction.

Ladduwahetty then inquired from Padmasiri whether any members or officers of the SLFLC had lodged any complaint regarding funds being misappropriated. 

The witness said that to date neither the members nor the officials of the SLFLC had lodged any complaints to that effect and noted that only Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Politburo Member Wasantha Samarasinghe had lodged a complaint, in that connection, with the CID. He then informed the Court that the plaintiff Samarasinghe, had lodged a written complaint with the CID on 30 January, five years ago, urging the CID, to probe the incident based on provisions contained in Sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and explained that based on it, a statement had been recorded by the CID from the plaintiff.

Later, Justice Patabendige questioned the witness whether he was aware that before arresting a suspect, the charges filed against him or her, had to be read out. The witness Padmasiri then responded saying that after having read out the charges, filed against the accused, on the criminal misappropriation of funds, Aluthgamage had been arrested on 15 September 2016.

Ladduwahetty further cross examining the witness inquired from him as to whether it had come to light, during the course of the probe, that the defendant Minister had possessed several tea and coconut estates situated in areas such as Kurunegala, Nawalapitiya, Ratnapura and Kotmale, which had been bequeathed to him by his parents. The witness said that such information had been disclosed during the inquiry, but maintained that the CID had not paid any attention or heed to the assets and liabilities of Aluthgamage, as part of their probe into the case.

Ladduwahetty then questioned the witness whether he was aware that the CID had commenced a probe against Aluthgamage, on charges that he had purchased a house situated at Kynsey Road, Borella valued at Rs 27 million. The witness said that he was aware of it. At this stage, Ladduwahetty questioned the witness Padmasiri whether the accused Minister had purchased the Kynsey Road residence through the sale of his duty free permit which he had been entitled to as a Parliamentarian or through a loan amounting to Rs 10 million from the Bank of Ceylon branch situated at the Parliament complex. The witness said that he now cannot either remember or recall clearly as to whether the accused Minister had sold the duty free permit or whether he had sold a second hand vehicle. He said that according to the statements given by a person named Jaliya Gunasekara, the latter had said that Aluthgamage had obtained a sum of Rs 26 million through the sale of his duty free vehicle permit.

Ladduwahetty had then inquired from the witness as to whether the said case had been filed against his client by the CID, over an offence that had not been committed by Aluthgamage and with the sinister motive of causing distress and loss of reputation to the accused. The charge was rejected by the witness Padmasiri and he maintained that there was no need for the CID to resort to such tactics.

Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige appearing for the prosecution, on behalf of the Attorney General Dappula de Livera, said that at the next hearing, the prosecution would look to conclude its submissions in the trial.

Accordingly, Ladduwahetty said that at the next hearing, the defence will be looking to make a request to the Court to issue an order to acquit the defendant from the charges filed against him and to release him from the trial, based on provisions contained in Section 200 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and without calling for any witnesses to testify on behalf of the defence. The prosecution was also represented by Senior State Counsel Nadee Sudurugoda. The accused Minister was also represented by Attorneys Kanchana Ratwatte, Shalitha Gunawardena and Buddhika Chandrasekara.

Further proceedings of the trial were fixed for 5 November.

Source : Ceylon Today

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