Siphoning of Rs. 18.5 billion to Hambantota Hotel project
By S.S. Selvanayagam
The Supreme Court yesterday re-fixed for 1 October the fundamental rights petition filed by the former President’s Chief of Staff Gamini Sedara Senarath and two others - former Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Managing Director Piyadasa Kudabalage and former Samurdhi Commissioner Neil Bandara Hapuwinna.
The bench comprised justices Eva Wanasundera, Prasanna S. Jayawardane and L.T.B. Dehideniya.
When the matter came up, the President’s Counsel for the petitioner informed Court that the petitioners were granted bail and pleaded for time to ascertain the status of the proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court.
The petitioners had sought an order from the Supreme Court preventing the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) from arresting them over a magisterial inquiry under the Public Property Act.
The case had been filed in the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court against them for the alleged offence of having misused Rs. 4 billion in government funds.
On an application by FCID request, the Fort Magistrate had already issued an order preventing them from leaving the country.
The petitioners cited the Inspector General of Police Pujitha Jayasundara, the FCID Director, the Attorney General and several others as respondents.
The petitioners lamented that their imminent arrest by the FCID at this juncture was politically motivated and mala fide with the intentions of punishing them by depriving them of their personal liberty without any legally justifiable reason. They claimed that this it constituted an imminent infringement upon their fundamental right to the freedom of movement and of choosing their residence in Sri Lanka as well as the right to equality and their entitlement to equal protection by the law guaranteed by the Constitution.
According to a B report (summary report – information) filed by the police at the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court, they have been accused of misusing government funds by illegally investing Rs. 4 billion from the Rs. 18.5 billion approved by the Cabinet in 2012. It is stated that although the said funds were allocated for the Kollupitiya Grand Hyatt Regency Hotel, which was to be constructed by a company affiliated to the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, it had been invested in the Hambantota Hyatt Regency Hotel project.
Romesh de Silva PC with Sugath Caldera appeared for Senarath while Ali Sabry PC with Ruwantha Cooray appeared for the other two petitioners.
Meanwhile, Senarath and the other two petitioners had been released on bail by Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne on 21 November.
They were each released on cash bail of Rs. 50,000 with two sureties of Rs. 1 million each.
A travel ban was also imposed on Senarath and the second suspect Kudabalage.