By Skandha Gunasekara
* Suspects accept bribe from Indian investor to reduce prices in the sale of Kantale Sugar Factory machinery
* Chief of Staff suspended, President orders unhindered legal action against suspects
President Sirisena informed prior to arrest
* Secretary to the President commends arrest
* Joint Opposition hails efforts of CIABOC
The Chief of Staff of President Maithripala Sirisena was arrested yesterday by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) for accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 million, CIABOC Director General Sarath Jayamanne told the Daily FT.
The Director General revealed that the President’s Chief of Staff, I.H.K. Mahanama, along with State Timber Corporation Chairman Piyadasa Dissanayake were arrested by CIABOC officials after accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 million. According to informed sources, the investigation into the two suspects’ actions had been ongoing for several weeks prior to yesterday’s arrest.
An Indian investor, seeking to purchase the machinery and equipment belonging to the Kantale Sugar Factory, had approached the two suspects who had agreed to reduce the initial price of Rs. 540 million to Rs. 100 million in exchange for a payoff of which Rs. 20 million was the first payment, sources revealed.
However, the Indian national had then informed CIABOC about the bribe sought by the two suspects.
The arrest had been made by a CIABOC official at a luxury hotel in Colombo while the suspects were counting the money, sources disclosed, adding that President Sirisena had been informed of the arrest prior to it being carried out.
The suspects were to be produced before the Fort Aluthkade Magistrate Courts.
Mahanama recently resigned from his position as the Secretary to the Ministry of Lands before being appointed as the President’s Chief of Staff, the most influential post in the administration, second only to the Secretary to the President.
Dissanayake was the Secretary to former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
Secretary to the President, Austin Fernando, while acknowledging that he was aware of the arrests, commended CIABOC.
“This shows that the country’s anti-corruption unit is very much active,” the Secretary to the President told the Daily FT.
Joint Opposition Parliamentary group leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena, speaking to the Daily FT, said that the arrest was a welcome change.
“This is another big unearthing of another massive corruption situation. If the public commissions are acting independently it is a welcome change to what we have seen of this administration thus far,” said MP Gunawardena.