Cafe Manager pleads guilty after excise raid | Sunday Observer

Cafe Manager pleads guilty after excise raid

Officer in-charge of the CCE Office, Chanaka Nanayakkara
Officer in-charge of the CCE Office, Chanaka Nanayakkara

Court fines Cafe Francais Manager Rs. 100,000 after Excise officials found alcohol worth Rs. 2 million when they raided the Colombo 7 residence of the Frenchman who owns the popular Park Street restaurant. Excise officials say it was their biggest haul seized yet

The manager of a French restaurant accused of illegal possession of foreign liquor worth nearly Rs. 2 million was fined Rs. 100,000 after he pleaded guilty to the crime when he appeared before the Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, February 28.

Manager of the restaurant Dilan Tharindu Weerasekara was at the residence of Café Francais owner Jean-Charles Toussaint when Colombo City Excise (CCE) officials raided the premises early last month and seized 199 bottles (137.700 litres) of Vodka, brandy, whiskey and wine that were illegally stored. Excise laws permit individuals to hold no more than 7.5 litres in possession.

The magistrate ordered 7.5 litres of the foreign alcoholic beverages to be returned to the manager, and confiscated the rest of the seized stock.

Toussaint who owns Café Francais had an ‘FL11’ restaurant licence from the Excise Department for the beverages in question in the café, but not at his residence. The manager told court that the beverages had been shifted from the café to his residence for safe-keeping following a theft.

Officer-in-charge of the CCE Office Chanaka Nanayakkara told the Sunday Observer that this was the biggest haul of alcohol the unit had ever seized in an excise raid. The OIC said that when such a large quantity of alcohol is being transported, the CCE should be officially informed of the movement. “The Café failed to do this,” OIC Nanayakkara said. He said that the French restaurateur had failed to show receipts for the purchase of the beverages.

“They couldn’t show authentic receipts from where the liquor was bought. The bottles could have been bought from unregistered dealers,” Nanayakkara said.

When contacted for comment, the restaurateur Jean-Charles Toussaint asserted he was innocent of wrongdoing, and “the only thing that I did not know was that you cannot keep more than 7.5 litres of alcohol in your house.”

He also said there was no connection between the liquor and his café. In a Facebook post, soon after the raid, Toussaint claimed most of the stock of bottles was the remainder from his wedding.

When the case came up in court on Thursday, Café Francais Manager Weerasekera’s lawyers, however, claimed the alcohol was a stock from the restaurant. OIC Nanayakkara said the restaurant had a valid liquor licence for this year.