- With revelations his school buddy too got a free ride in the Navy, the former President’s son is diving deeper into trouble
Startling details of how taxpayers had to bear the cost of a British naval training not only to Yoshitha Kanishka Rajapaksa but also to his school friend D. A.K.V. Dissanayake amounting to millions of rupees have now come to light.
Although it is common knowledge that Yoshitha Rajapaksa received training in the United Kingdom with public money, it is now revealed that Dissanayake too had received the same training in UK together with Yoshitha. Both did not have the necessary qualifications to be employed at Sri Lanka Navy nor to go to UK for naval training, highly reliable Navy sources said on condition of anonymity.
It is learnt that the Dissanayake and Rajapaksa families enjoyed a close friendship. It is also revealed that Kavishan Dissanayake who is now in remand custody with Yoshitha on money laundering charges is the brother of D.A.K.V. Dissanayake who had left the Sri Lanka Navy some time ago.
Yoshitha Rajapaksa who will remain in remand custody until March 10th was arrested on January 30th by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) regarding alleged financial irregularities at the Carlton Sports Network (CSN). Former CSN chairman Rohan Weliwita, former CEO Nishantha Ranatunga, Kavishan Dissanayake and Ashan Rabinath Fernando were also remanded on an order by the Kaduwela Magistrate. Yoshitha Rajapaksa was suspended from all naval duties last week.
Navy Spokesman Captain Akram Alavi told The Sunday Leader that Yoshitha’s salary and allowances had been stopped with immediate effect pending inquiry and added that Yoshitha would be sacked if found guilty of the money laundering charges levelled against him.
“Sri Lanka Navy is conducting two investigations into junior Rajapaksa’s unauthorised overseas travel and his involvement in politics while being a naval officer. The Navy was conducting these investigations when Yoshitha was arrested. Although there was a setback to the investigations following Yoshitha’s arrest, the Defence Ministry had directed the Navy Commander to carry out the investigations without any hindrance,” the Spokesman said.
Meanwhile it is also learnt that the Defence Secretary has directed the Navy Commander to investigate whether Yoshitha had the required qualifications to join the Navy, whether the recruitment criteria had been changed in order to pave way for him to join the Navy as a naval officer and how he received overseas scholarships and whether these courses of action had deprived qualified naval officers from obtaining overseas scholarships.
The Navy sources further said the Navy too should be held responsible for recruiting an unqualified applicant as an Officer Cadet in 2006. “When the Navy wanted to recruit Officer Cadets for its 45th intake, by-passing the recruitment procedure, the required educational qualifications were lowered; the applicant had to have six credit passes including Sinhala, Mathematics, English and Science in one sitting but Yoshitha had these qualifications in two sittings and his educational qualification certificates were not in his personal files when the Wettewa Board of Inquiry conducted an investigation on Yoshitha Rajapaksa last year, sources added.
It is further alleged that the Navy assigned three Navy sailors to Rajapaksa’s security when he was undergoing training at the Naval Maritime Academy in Trincomalee in addition to the security provided in the training area by the Presidential Security Division (PSD).
“The Navy is now conducting investigations into how Yoshitha travelled abroad without the Navy Commander’s approval. Didn’t the Navy know that for the first time in the history of the Sri Lanka Navy, applications were called from those who studied in the arts stream in the Advanced Level although the practice was to call applications from those who had studied in the science stream. It is good that investigations are being carried out on Yoshitha Rajapaksa but the Defence Minister and the Defence Ministry should hold separate investigations into the conduct of those who aided and abetted these irregularities, sources said.
Having joined the Sri Lanka Navy as an Officer Cadet in 2006, Yoshitha Rajapaksa received basic naval training at the Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee and was promoted as a midshipman and later aide-de-camp (personal assistant) to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Later he was sent to the Britannia Royal Naval College to become an officer and underwent training on board HMS Ocean during her deployment to the Caribbean and with the Fast Attack Flotilla. Approximately Rs. 25 million of tax payers money was spent on his training.
It was in 2009 that Yoshitha Rajapaksa was commissioned as an acting Sub Lieutenant by none other than his father, the then President of the country. It was during the Rajapaksa regime that he was awarded the East Humanitarian Operation Medal, North and East Operations Medal which is presented to all ranks of the regular and volunteer forces who have served in the northern and eastern provinces and the Purna Bhumi Padakkama for regular and volunteer forces who have served in Jaffna, Vavuniya, Killinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara districts although it is unclear whether Yoshitha served in these districts.
The Navy sources further said Cadet Officer M. S. Ganewatte had been deprived of the scholarship he was entitled to for the Britannia Royal Naval College training which was offered to Yoshitha Rajapaksa instead.
“Instead of sending Ganewatte on a scholarship to the Britannia Royal Naval College, the place was given to Yoshitha Rajapaksa. Since junior Rajapaksa did not have the required qualification to obtain the UK scholarship, his training was sponsored by the Sri Lankan government which cost more than Rs. 25 million of taxpayer’s money,” sources alleged.
Yoshitha also followed two more courses in sea training at the Maritime Warfare College and HMS Collingwood in Hampshire in the United Kingdom.“If the government spent on training a qualified naval officer there wouldn’t have been any issue over it but depriving qualified officers, offering such exclusive training on a political basis, is a crime,” sources added.
Meanwhile the sources further said Yoshitha Rajapaksa had undertaken yet another training course in Ukraine arranged by the then Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunge, first cousin of Mahinda Rajapaksa who now stands accused by the Ukranian Government for selling weapons to Russain separatist rebels whilst holding office as the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia.
“On the directives of the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Yoshitha was paid the daily foreign allowance, travel allowance and his telephone bills in addition to the training fee. At the passing out parade in Trincomalee, Rajapaksa was named the Midshipman of the Year and was awarded the Sword of Honour by the then Navy Commander Admiral Vasantha Karannagoda in order to be in the good books of President Rajapaksa,” sources said.
With the arrest of Yoshitha, questions have been raised as to how a naval officer could become chairman of a highly invested organisation. The FCID has sought the Kaduwela Magistrate’s approval to check several bank accounts in relation to the ongoing case and requested Magistrate Dhammika Hemapala not to grant bail to the suspects as it could hamper the ongoing investigations.
Meanwhile questions have been raised as to whether the CSN channel was started to fulfill the role of a media organisation or for the purposes of money laundering. Reliable FCID sources said that the former Head of CSN, Yasara Abeynayake had provided vital information in regard to CSN, its management, the role played by Yoshitha Rajapaksa and where the money came from.
Although Rajapaksa supporters claim that the arrest of Yoshitha Rajapaksa is part of a political witch hunt against the Rajapaksas, the CSN Board of Directors failure to divulge from where they got the money to invest in CSN cannot be disputed. Legal sources have meanwhile said that the FCID was too late in arresting the suspects on money laundering charges, as there was substantial evidence to prove that the investments were made from money earned illegally.CSN had an initial capital of Rs. 7 million which had been accounted, but the failure to show how they obtained the US $ 2.3 million that was invested led to the team of investigators concluding that CSN was involved in money laundering.
It is also revealed that further investigations are now underway to ascertain whether the accused had violated the customs ordinance, forged documents, committed criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation and misuse of state properties.
As claimed by the Rajapaksas, if CSN was not owned by Yoshitha Rajapaksa, what made the former President allow CSN to operate an office at the Presidential Secretariat in Fort and use a fleet of vehicles assigned for the Presidential Security Division (PSD)?
The CSN network had been registered at an address in Torrington Avenue, Colombo 5 where Mahinda Rajapaksa lived while he was the Opposition Leader from 2001 to 2004. Not only CSN but Siriliya Saviya headed by Shiranthi Rajapaksa, Carlton Pre School, Carlton Sports Club and Namal Rajapaksas Tharunyata Hetak too had been registered in the same address at No: 260/12, Torrington Avenue, Colombo 5.
This property was originally owned by Prabath Nanayakkara, a businessman. After Rajapaksa became President in 2005, this property had been bought for a sum of Rs. 35 million by Mary Laud Wickremasinghe alias Shiranthi Rajapaksa (National Identity Card no. 535233314V ).
According to Keerthi Tennakoon, Advisor to the Anti-Corruption Front, Ashan Fernando had invested Rs. 5 million, Gadiya Karunajeewa had invested Rs. 1 million and Kavishan Dissanayake had invested Rs 1 million in CSN.
“Ashan Fernando is a doctor attached to the Mannar Hospital blood bank. Fernando had stated that he invested the money his father had given him. Kavishan Dissanayake has stated that he obtained Rs. 250,000 from his mother, a loan amounting to Rs 250,000 from his uncle and another loan of Rs 500,000 from another uncle. What is surprising is that these individuals had made no attempt to pay back the loans or attempted to obtain annual dividends from the CSN channel. The third member of the director board is Gadiya Karunajeewa, daughter of former Chairman People’s Bank, W. Karunajeewa who was a close associate of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Gadiya Karunajeewa who is presently residing in Australia has never attempted to obtain dividends for the amount she invested,” Tennakoon said.
Tennakoon further stated that CSN had imported vehicles and equipment defrauding Sri Lanka Customs.
“In 2012, an OB bus and equipment for CSN were imported placing an order with Arina in UK and the ES Broadcasting company. As per documents submitted by CSN to Customs Department, the price of the bus was 23,000 Sterling Pounds and 3,200 Sterling Pounds for the equipment. However, the true invoice for the bus reveals that the bus was priced at 300,000 Sterling Pounds and the equipment 140,000 Sterling Pounds, Tennakoon said.Tennakoon further said that despite being continuously used for activities of the CSN channel for the past three years, the CSN inventory did not mention such a bus. In January 2015 the said OB bus was found parked in one of the stores at the Economic Centre at Narahenpita.
Tennakoon further stated that the building in which the CSN office is located belongs to the Rajapaksa Foundation and constructed by the Nawaloka Construction Company.
“Nawaloka states that in 2010, Rs. 3,000 million was paid to construct the building and it was settled by W. Karunajeewa, former Chairman of the People’s Bank and father of Gadiya Karunajeewa. How did Karunajeewa earn this money to pay Nawaloka Constructions? If so what is the source and origin of the said amount? W. Karunajeewa is no longer amongst the living to answer this question. This shows that CSN was a fake company for the purpose and objective of laundering money,” Tennakoon added.
Meanwhile highly reliable Welikada Remand Prison sources said Yoshitha Rajapaksa and his CSN friends are being accorded special privileges at the Welikada Remand Prison.
“Only three visitors are allowed to visit an inmate per day and they should visit between 8 am and 4.30 pm. There is a special room where the inmates can be met. However, a special room upstairs where the office of the Superintendent of Prison is situated has been provided to Yoshitha and his group to meet visitors. They are also allowed visitors from morning till evening. The ward they have been put in is a large ward and only the five suspects have been kept there while in similar wards usually there are more than 50 inmates per ward,” sources said.
According to the sources, the Commissioner General of Prisons, Nishan Dhanasinghe has to bear sole responsibility for giving special privileges for Yoshitha and his group.
However refuting allegations, Dhanasinghe said that such privileges had not been provided to Yoashitha Rajapaksa and added that if an MP makes a visit, the inmate is taken to a better hall to talk. When asked whether the same applies even if an MP visits an ordinary inmate, the Commissioner General said that if there is a request, a special room will be provided.