Three key officers of RADA to be arrested shortly
The Police Special Investigations Unit probing alleged shady transactions of the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) where Rs.124 to Rs.169 million of State assets believed to have been stolen or transferred to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other parties, is expected to arrest three key suspects shortly, authoritative sources said. Last week, the SIU was on the verge of arresting businessman, parliamentarian and former chairman of RADA, Tiran Alles, when he moved the Supreme Court to obtain a stay order on May 18, preventing imminent arrest.
The sources said the suspects to be arrested shortly, were closely associated with the RADA transactions, either in transferring or receiving the funds.
“They have aided and abated the alleged siphoning off of millions of State funds allocated to tsunami reconstruction in the LTTE- held areas in the North and East in 2006, under the pretext of building housing units for the tsunami stricken,” source said.
Among the many government officials who recorded statements in connection with the case are, Secretary to the former President, Lalith Weeratunga, Director National Budget Department Anoma Nandani and two of the five Government Agents entrusted with reporting the progress of the houses being built, to release the funds.
Alles who was also the Chairman of Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka Ltd) at the time, alleged in his statement that he was only heading board meetings of RADA and was not involved in any operational matters.
However, the statements of the Government Agents have refuted this claim, the sources said.
Initiated on a complaint by the Anti Corruption Front recently, the Police SIU which is directly under the Inspector General of Police (IGP) is investigating the transfer of Treasury allocations to the tune of Rs.169 million by RADA to two bogus construction companies, Everest Civil Engineering Pvt. Ltd of Grandpass and B & K Holdings of Dehiwala. The twocompanies were supposed to construct tsunami houses in the North and the East under a special project called ‘Jaya Lanka.’
The Agency which replaced Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) functioned during President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s time, was meant to coordinate and implement operations of various institutions undertaking post-tsunami reconstruction.
As the Chairman of RADA, Alles was overseeing the transfer of billions of rupees for various activities including the Jaya Lanka project.
The Treasury has allocated RADA a total of Rs.2441 million for post tsunami reconstruction work.
Meanwhile, it is alleged that two bogus companies have been established with the connivance of RADA officials and an LTTE point man, Emil Kanthan, to siphon off some of the tsunami reconstruction funds during the period from January to August 2006.
Three directors of the bogus companies and the Chief Operations Officer of RADA, Dr. Saliya Wickremasuriya, who signed the cheques for non-existing housing units under the Jaya Lanka Project, are now in remand custody. Authoritative sources said the arrest of Tiran Alles, the former Chairman of RADA would have expedited the investigations to unravel where the missing Rs.124 – 169 millions went.
Sources said, SIU was on the verge of arresting Alles when the Attorney General issued instructions on Thursday (21) against attempts to take him in. Alles field a Fundamental Rights petition before the Supreme Court and secured an interim order to halt any action to arrest him.
In the Petition, Alles claimed the SIU investigation was politically coloured and a certain Minister who charged him of being a ‘wheeler dealer’ that caused a split in his party during the January Presidential election, was behind the whole ‘drama’. He pleaded the Police went on to impound his passport without even recording a statement.
The Parliamentarian added that the government was taking revenge from its political opponents and as a result, he too faced the risk of being arrested.
At the time, the SIU had sought the Attorney General’s advice to arrest Alles based on the evidence gathered. On May 18, the Supreme Court noticed the SIU of the pending FR case. Subsequently, the AG issued instructions stalling Alles’ arrest.
When the RADA case was taken up before the Fort Magistrate on May 19, the SIU sleuths produced a fifth suspect, Ponmudi Seehara Sudan. He was remanded till the next hearing, scheduled for June 1.
Ponmudi allegedly received Rs.10 million from one of the bogus contractors. He had claimed that the money was handed to Emil Kanthan who is wanted by the Interpol for arms deals with the LTTE and is missing since the end of war. He was traced to Dubai and the investigators believe the man may have transited via Dubai to another country.
So far, the Police sleuths have remanded five suspects in connection with the RADA case.
The arrested are three directors of the bogus companies – Shanthikumar Gajankumar, the first accused, Anandi Shanthikumar, second accused and mother of first accused, Kandasami Sodiraja and Ponmudi Seeharan Sudan and Dr. Saliya Wickremasuriya. Two other directors of B& K Holdings, wanted for questioning are currently living overseas.