(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – The Colombo High Court yesterday acquitted former Minister Basil Rajapaksa and three others from one of the Divi Neguma cases filed against them by the Attorney General.
Accordingly, the Colombo High Court acquitted former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, former Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Development Dr. Nihal Jayathilaka, former Director General of Divi Neguma Department Kithsiri Ranawaka and former Deputy Director General of Divi Neguma Department Bandula Tillekasiri from all five charges, without calling defence evidence.
High Court Judge R. Gurusinghe made this order pursuant to a request made by defence to acquit them from the charges, on the basis that the prosecution evidence has failed to establish the commission of the offence charges against accused in the indictment.
The Attorney General had filed indictments against four accused in the Colombo High Court for allegedly committing criminal breach of trust with regard to Rs.2,992 million while being utilised for the ‘Isurumath Nivahana’ programme during the January-2015 presidential election.
The High Court Judge held that the prosecution evidence has proved the fact that money lying in the Divineguma Community Based Banks belonged to the shareholders of that Bank and that such money cannot be considered as Public Funds.The High Court Judge held that the position of the prosecution that the concerned money constituted public property within the meaning of Section 12 of the Public Property Act is baseless.
High Court Judge R. Gurusinghe observed that the witnesses have provided evidence to support the fact that the money utilised for the Isurumath Nivahana project were money in the accounts of the Divi Neguma beneficiaries in the Divi Neguma community based banks for their benefit and not the public funds.
The High Court judge further observed that the accused have not acted contrary to the Divi Neguma Act and the funds that were used for the Isurumath Nivahana project were given for the benefit of Divi Neguma beneficiaries.
The first witness for the prosecution, Iddamalgoda Deshapriya Nadeeka Sanjeewani, Assistant Director of the Social Development unit, had given evidence stating that every single cent, out of the Rs. 2,992 million spent on the said project, went to 1,197,111 Divineguma Beneficiaries and there is no allegation that even a single cent was taken by any of the accused.
Soon after the conclusion of prosecution evidence into this case, the defence filed an application requesting to acquit the four accused from the Divi Neguma case, without calling for defence evidence.
The defence had filed this application in terms of Section 200 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure requesting Court to record a verdict of acquittal, on behalf of the first and fourth accused, in view of the fact that the evidence led by the Prosecution totally failed to establish the commission of the offence charged against the accused in the indictment.
The defence argued that key prosecution witnesses including the one time Secretary to the Finance Ministry, Dr. P.B. Jayasundara who testified, agreed and admitted, that the money in the Accounts of the Divineguma Beneficiaries in the concerned banks, that was utilised for the ‘Isurumath Nivahana project’ belonged to the Divi Neguma Beneficiaries and did not constitute “Public Property”.
The Defence further argued that after the political change after the 2015 Presidential election there was a clear and structured mechanism, by the establishment of a Anti-Corruption Secretariat of which the first complainant was the Director, and the establishment of the FCID, mainly to ‘persecute’ members of the Rajapaksa family which included the first accused in this case.
President’s Counsel Gamini Marapana with Navin Marapana PC and Jayantha Weerasinghe PC, counsel Saumya Hettiarachchi, Thanuja Meegahawatta, Senarath Jayasundara, Wijesiri Ambawatta, Nilantha Wijesinghe and Uchitha Wickremesinghe appeared for the defence. Deputy Solicitor General Thusith Mudalige appeared for the Attorney General.