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Bribery Enforcer Accused

2014 Jan 07

Bribery Enforcer Accused

By Nirmala Kannangara

While the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption looks to enforce the law against corrupt officials, the Chairman of the Commission has been accused of misusing his position for personal gain.

The accusations stem from claims made in Parliament by UNP Parliamentarian Sujeewa Senasinghe followed by a complaint lodged with the Bribery Commission by JVP Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti.

Senasinghe claimed that while the Chairman of the Commission, Justice Jagath Balapatabendi, had misused his position, the Commission, as a whole, was inefficient.

“The bribery commission is very efficient to take quick action against ‘sprats’ but very lethargic and inefficient to start investigations against political bigwigs and their stooges,” Senasinghe said.

Handunnetti demanded that Justice Balapatabendi should step down from his post, pending conclusion of investigations into the complaint the MP has lodged against the Bribery Chairman.

Senasinghe alleged that the Chairman of Vehicles Lanka (Pvt) Ltd Harsha Prabath De Silva has given a motor car, assembled by him as a gift, for Justice Balapatabendi in return for getting a court verdict in his favour.

According to Senasinghe, De Silva filed a Writ of Mandamus in the Court of Appeal (CA WA 1492/ 2006) against the Minister of Transport, Commissioner of Motor Traffic and Secretary to the Transport Ministry in 2006 to get a court order to direct the Commissioner of Motor Traffic to accept and entertain the applications to register the vehicles assembled by him.
Senasinghe alleged, “Justice Balapatabendi was a member of the panel of judges on eight sittings in the cases on Harsha De Silva. He was one of the Judges present, together with Chief Justice S N Silva and Justice Somawansa, on June 2, 2008 when the order was given to the Commissioner of Motor Traffic to consider the registration of 145 locally assembled vehicles. For giving a judgment in favour of Harsha de Silva which he was eagerly awaiting, Balapatabendi received one of the said 145 vehicles as a token of appreciation.”
According to the said Judgment, these locally assembled vehicles cannot be registered under a branded name but under the ‘Emperor’ brand.

Although the vehicle in question was registered under the ‘Emperor’ brand name, The Sunday Leader is in possession of a photograph which indicates brand name of the vehicle was altered to ‘Toyota’.

“Being a former Supreme Court Judge who was on the bench when the Motor Traffic Department was given the option to consider the registration, and that the vehicles have to be traded under the name Emperor, it is questionable as to why Justice Balapatabendi changed the car badge to Toyota. This is a clear case of violation of the conditions imposed by Balapatabendi, himself, to release these vehicles,” a top Bribery Commission official said on condition of anonymity.

According to the order given, chassis number AT211-6018287 was one of the 145 vehicles that were ordered to be registered with the Motor Traffic Department which was later owned by Justice Balapatabendi.

The Sunday Leader is in possession of two documents issued by the Motor Traffic Department on June 27, 2013 and September 18, 2013, respectively, which clearly show as to how the changes have been made.
When the first document, dated June 27, 2013, gives the name of the current owner as Dhammika Jagath De Silva Balapatabendi, the second document, issued on September 18, 2013, shows that, by June 27, 2013, the said motor vehicle has been sold twice.

“Isn’t this a manipulation? In one instance the Motor Traffic Department document, dated June 26, 2013, states that the current owner is Jagath Balapatabendi and, then, the same department, in another document, dated September 18, states that the current owner, as at June 26, is Sampath Mudiyanselage Sujeeva Navodya Weligalle. According to the second document, Jagath Balapatabendi has transferred the car to Jahinge Senarath Jayasinghe on April 22, 2013, and Jayasinghe has transferred the vehicle to Weligalle on June 6, 2013.

“Although the vehicle was registered under the name of Balapatabendi at one time, the revenue license had been obtained since June 10, 2008 under the name of the present owner Weligalle. According to the second document issued by the Motor Traffic Department, Weligalle has obtained the car on June 6, 2013, but the Certificate of Insurance issued by Union Assurance PLC shows that Weligalle has got the vehicle insured on June 5, 2013 – one day prior to when he actually owned the vehicle according to RMV details. How can Weligalle get insurance to a vehicle he does not own? This shows that Balapatabendi has manipulated the whole process,” the source added.

Sources from Sri Lanka Customs, too, confirmed to The Sunday Leader that they are in possession of documents to prove that owner of the KG-9321 ‘Emperor’ motor car was owned by Jagath Balapatabendi as of June 25, 2013.

“How can the Motor Traffic Department now say that Balapatabendi has sold the car in April and was re-sold in June 6? If these registrations are done manually we can assume that it will take few weeks, or months, for the owners name to appear in their system. At a time when every process is computerized, it won’t take a few minutes to find out who the vehicle owner is in the system. This is yet another ‘computer jilmart’ by the Motor Traffic Department on the request of Justice Balapatabendi,” customs sources said.
Although Justice Balapatabendi has repeatedly stated that he had never seen or known Harsha De Silva, The Sunday Leader is in possession of documentary proof to prove how Balapatabendi was personally in touch with Harsha de Silva.

Telephone details of Harsha de Silva have clearly shown as to how frequent Justice Balapatabendi and De Silva talk to each other over the phone. According to the documents, Harsha de Silva has not only contacted Justice Balapatabendi over his mobile phone but also on his residential land line.
The Sunday Leader is in possession of a copy of the said letter and, according to it, by violating the provisions relating to secrecy which he is bound to comply, Justice Balapatabendi has acted contrary to the provisions of the Bribery Commission

Sources claimed that, according to Section 17 of the Bribery Act, every member of the Commission, the Director General and every officer or servant appointed to assist the commission, shall, before entering upon the duties of his office, sign a declaration that he will not disclose any information received by him, or coming to his knowledge, in the exercise and the discharge of his powers and functions under this Act, except for the purposes of giving effect to the provisions of this Act.

“Justice Balapatabendi is the Chairman of the Commission. Although he is bound to protect the confidentiality of the commission work he went on, going to the press releasing statements of what their plans were against the former Chief Justice. There is no wrong in the investigations carried out by the Bribery Commission against the former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, but the question is how the Bribery Chief violated the rules and regulations of the Bribery Act,” the sources said.

The sources further stated that, according to Section 22 of the Bribery Act, any person who breaches the secrecy provisions in Section 17 of the Act is liable to imprisonment. According to sources, every person who acts in contravention of the duty imposed on him by Section 17, to maintain secrecy, shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction after summary trial before a magistrate, be liable to imprisonment for a term, not exceeding five years, or to a fine, not exceeding Rs 100, 000, or both such fine and imprisonment.

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