Panic stations over FCID chief | Sunday Observer

Panic stations over FCID chief

Several senior police and law enforcement officers went into panic on the night of last Thursday January 17, as word began spreading that the head of the FCID, Senior DIG Ravindra Waidyalankara, had allegedly taken copies of highly sensitive investigative material to travel to Singapore on a personal visit.

IGP Pujith Jayasundera confirmed the rumours to Sunday Observer. He said that Waidyalankara had requested overseas leave for medical reasons. “Some time on Friday, I received information through personal channels that Waidyalankara had taken some official reports into a pen drive to take overseas.” The IGP said he had not been officially informed of this fact by the FCID, “or else I would have taken action on an official level. Since he informed us that he was going overseas merely for medical treatment, we had no reason to search his baggage,” the IGP said.

Social media flared with posts about the alleged document leak started around 9:30 PM on Wednesday 16th January.One Twitter account closely followed in political and law enforcement circles posted of a concern about “wrecking the MiG Deal probe”, claiming that there was “disturbing news that a very senior police officer with access to highly sensitive evidence is heading to Singapore, where several co-conspirators are domiciled.”

Suspects in Singapore

Law enforcement and criminal justice officials were caught unawares by the late-night bombshell. Recently, the Colombo Fort Magistrates Court issued arrest warrants for two Singaporean suspects in the ‘MiG Deal’ probe, T.S. Lee and his wife, Ning Lay Kim. Officials were concerned that the materials suspected to have been copied by Waidyalankara were to be taken to Singapore to be shared with the suspects. However, with no official confirmation of the leak by other FCID officials, airport officials stood down and allowed Senior DIG Waidyalankara to depart uninterrupted, on Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL 306 to Singapore, at 1:00 AM on Thursday, 17th January.

A source familiar with the allegation of investigative material being improperly removed by Waidyalankara told Sunday Observer that copies of the relevant investigative materials are still present in his office on the ground floor of the FCID building in both physical and electronic form. When Sunday Observer contacted SDIG Waidyalankara yesterday over the telephone about this allegation, he declined to comment, or to confirm or deny these allegations.

FCID sources declined to confirm the allegation that Waidyalankara had indeed taken sensitive material to Singapore to meet with suspects. It is unusual for a social media rumour to cause so much alarm in law enforcement circles, however, the conduct and allegiances of Senior DIG Waidyalankara have long been a source of angst for officers of the police and Attorney General’s Department who work with the FCID.

Waidyalankara formally retired from the police on his 60th birthday, on 14 May 2018, but was granted an eight-month service extension through a cabinet decision shortly after his retirement. “I never recommended that extension,” IGP Jayasundera told Sunday Observer. “But, if the government makes a decision saying it is an official requirement, I will not go against it,” the IGP said. “Such officers must act in accordance with the law.”

Exactly two weeks after former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was indicted in the Special High Court following an FCID investigation into his alleged misappropriation of government funds, on September 7 2018, Waidyalankara met with Rajapaksa in an event room on the 4th floor of the Ramada Hotel in Colombo. According to a police headquarters source familiar with surveillance of the encounter, the conversation lasted over an hour.

SIU probe

Police Headquarters sources told Sunday Observer that the FCID head is also under investigation by the police Special Investigations Unit (SIU) over his alleged involvement in shielding a suspect from arrest in 2017.

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 26 October 2018. The cause for the alarm was not subtle. Several members of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s family are under criminal investigation by the FCID.

Probes against Rajapaksa family

FCID investigations have led to two indictments of Basil Rajapaksa, the former President’s brother, for money laundering and criminal misappropriation of government funds respectively. Gotabaya Rajapaksa too was indicted for siphoning state funds to construct a mausoleum for his parents. Namal Rajapaksa too has been indicted for money laundering following an FCID investigation, and an investigation into money laundering by Yoshitha Rajapaksa is pending indictment.

Two cousins of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Jaliya Wickramasuriya and Udayanga Weeratunga, who served as Sri Lankan ambassadors, are also under FCID investigation for criminal misappropriation of government funds. Wickramasuriya has already been indicted in the United States for wire fraud and money laundering.

Under these circumstances, senior law enforcement officers were stunned to see the head of the elite law enforcement unit behind these investigations appearing casually dressed and completely at ease in the new Prime Minister’s official residence, with so many of his family members coming in the crosshairs of the FCID.

There was particular concern that Waidyalankara, a sharp-witted attorney-at-law, could assist suspects and accused in criminal investigations in casting doubt over the legitimacy of the FCID. Several actions have been filed in court challenging the legality of the FCID, which is, in fact, nothing more than another functional division of the Sri Lanka Police, all of whose members are regular police officers with no special powers outside of those granted to them under the Code of Criminal Procedure Act and other relevant laws passed by Parliament.

“Hand-picked”

Waidyalankara was hand-picked by IGP N.K. Illangakoon and the government in February 2015 to head the newly formed FCID. Before being put in charge of the FCID, he served as DIG for the Jaffna range, under then Senior DIG PujithJayasundera.

When the FCID was being formed, Waidyalankara hand-picked several officers to join the new division. Investigations by Sunday Observer found that many of those hand-picked by Waidyankara were marred by allegations of corruption. Several had been previously removed from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) because of corruption allegations.

One such officer, whose personnel files were reviewed by Sunday Observer, had a stunning track record. Police Sergeant Ajith Sudantha Gunawardena was serving in the Counterfeit Currency Branch (CCB) of the CID in 2011 when an officer of that branch was assigned a credit card fraud investigation.

The officer conducting that investigation had noted that the CID were only informed by the credit card company of fraudulent transactions one week after they took place, often too late to gather evidence and identify or apprehend the suspects. The officer made special arrangements with the credit card company to alert the CID immediately as a fraudulent transaction took place.

No sooner this arrangement was in place, a CID team worked with the credit card company to pinpoint the nine suspect 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 why they were being arrested, 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.

Both Gunawardena and Serasinghe were later among those hand-picked 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.

IGP aware

Waidyalankara has come under criticism for personally assigning several highly sensitive investigations to these two officers despite their checkered records. According to police headquarters sources, the IGP was aware of the problems caused by these sensitive investigations being assigned to Serasinghe and Gunawardena but was powerless to remove Serasinghe, now an Assistant Superintendent, as officers of this rank can only be transferred by the National Police Commission. Jayasundera

Gunawardena, however, being a low-ranking officer, was transferred out of the FCID last year, due to “allegations of fraud”, according to a senior staff officer at police headquarters. “Gunawardena was transferred out of FCID by the IGP based on information personally collected by the IG through police intelligence networks,” the officer stated, requesting anonymity to discuss ongoing investigations. “Over time, the activities of some of Waidyalankara’s other FCID officers has also come into question.”

SDIG Waidyalankara himself is no stranger to bribery commission investigations. The FCID head himself is also under investigation by the Bribery Commission for the alleged illegal accumulation of assets. That investigation, Sunday Observer learns, has been ongoing for over two years, but has hit a brick wall due to the failure of police headquarters to provide the Bribery Commission with Waidyalankara’s declarations of assets and liabilities.

Investigations into the suspected asset holdings of Waidyalankara and his family have centered around the Monarch Residences complex in Kollupitiya, where a large 16th floor apartment valued conservatively at over Rs. 60 million, was owned in the name of Waidyalankara’s son, Asela, after the Senior DIG took charge of the FCID. Officers familiar with law enforcement surveillance of the property confirmed to Sunday Observer that AselaWaidyalankara resides in this apartment.Multiple security officers ofMonarch Residences and the adjoining Cinnamon Grand Hotel corroborated Waidyalankara’s ownership and residence of apartment 16-A2 of the Monarch Residences.

Monarch surveillance

The same surveillance team has observed the junior Waidyalankara meeting frequently with a controversial television personality at a restaurant in the Cinnamon Grand Hotel adjoining the Monarch apartment complex. At some of these meetings, was a suspect under investigation by the FCID in connection with a hotel construction project, according to the officer. According to a police source familiar with the ongoing investigations, SDIG Waidyalankara has not declared the Monarch property purchase in any asset declaration to the IGP.

Sunday Observer has obtained an extract of the owners register of the Monarch Residences held by the building’s condominium management dated July 2017, which states that the apartment, number 16-A2, is owned by AselaWaidyalankara.

However, AselaWaidyalankara, speaking to Sunday Observer, denied either owning or residing in any apartment at Monarch Residences. “I am not confirming that,” he said. “It is not an apartment that is under my name. I don’t own any apartments at Monarch Residences,” he asserted. When asked whether he resided at this apartment, Waidyalankara refused repeatedly to confirm or deny this fact. “My father is a public servant, so no one in my family can own an apartment at Monarch,” AselaWaidyalankara concluded.

The junior Waidyalankara’s denial of owning this apartment is contradicted by police sources, the building’s ownership register and the security officers, one of whom is a former law enforcement officer, interviewed by Sunday Observer who identified Waidyalankara both by name and as the son of the FCID chief. The IGP refused to discuss questions pertaining to SDIG Waidyalankara’s asset inquiries with Sunday Observer, citing the sensitivity of ongoing investigations.

“I will not support any further service extensions for SDIG Waidyalankara based on everything that has happened and information I have about him,” the IGP declared. “Even the Attorney General was vehemently opposed to this extension”.

The police chief said he was not aware of any request for another extension to Waidyalankara’s service, which is slated to expire shortly. SDIG Ravi Waidyalankara is due to return to Sri Lanka this morning on SriLankan Airlines flight UL 307 from Singapore, scheduled to land at 11:05 AM.

(Rajitha Jagoda Arachchi contributed in reporting) 

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