By Norman Palihawadane and Hiran Seneviratne
Police yesterday commenced a special operation to arrest those who had been aiding and abetting former minister and SJB MP Rishad Bathiudeen to evade arrest, Police Media Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said.
Bathiudeen was remanded yesterday evening after being arrested in Dehiwala.
DIG Rohana said seven persons including a female doctor in whose house MP Bathiudeen had been hiding had been taken into custody. Her husband, a private tutor, had also been taken into custody, the DIG said.
Among other suspects was a foreign employment agent who had escorted the MP from one hiding place to another, the DIG said. The owner of the house from where the MP was arrested is still missing.
The female doctor and her husband were tenants in the apartment, where Bathiudeen was hiding.
“Some more persons are to be taken into custody,” the police spokesman said.
DIG Rohana said the arrest had been made around 3 am by a CID team who traced Bathiudeen to Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala.
He was taken into custody based on the Attorney General’s instructions to the police on Oct 13 to arrest him on charges of misappropriating public funds by using 222 SLTB buses to provide transport facilities to the displaced people in the Puttalam area to cast their votes in the 2019 Presidential Election.
MP Bathiudeen, Project director Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and project accountant Alagarathnam Manoranjan are accused of violating Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds.
The CID, on the direction of the Attorney General, requested the Colombo Fort Magistrate to issue an arrest warrant on MP Bathiudeen and the other two suspects on charges of criminal misappropriation of public funds and violation of election laws.
However, the Magistrate ruled that the Police could arrest the suspects without a warrant for violation of public property. Thereby, Attorney General Livera directed the Police to arrest the three suspects according to the law.
MP Bathiudeen had filed a writ application through a lawyer seeking an order from the Court of Appeal to prevent his arrest.
AG’s coordinating officer State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne told The Island that Attorney General Livera had advised the CID to place MP Bathiudeen under surveillance 24 hours before the issuing of the directive to arrest the former minister.
State Counsel Jayaratne said that the arrest of MP Bathiudeen was not something that had happened suddenly.
She said that 24 hours before the Attorney General’s advice pertaining to the arrest was provided in writing to the CID officers and the Acting IGP, the AG had summoned the CID officers and verbally instructed them to make preparation.
The Attorney General had advised the high-ranking CID officers to carry out suitable surveillance on MP Bathiudeen and to stay alert regarding him, 24 hours before the advice was handed in writing, the AG’s coordinating office said.
She said that if the CID officers had followed the AG’s verbal advice of pre-preparation and had carried out proper surveillance activities, the suspect would not have been able to flee.
The Attorney General yesterday provided the Acting IGP with further advice in writing with regard to the criminal investigation against MP Bathiudeen and also met with the investigative officers of the CID.
It was revealed during that discussion that the CID is also carrying out investigations regarding over 10 more incidents related to MP Bathiudeen, State Counsel Jayaratne said.
The AG presented the Acting IGP with detailed information pertaining to those investigations and issued instructions to conduct further investigations under the offence of Money Laundering and also to appoint a special team of experienced and knowledgeable officers to carry out the investigations efficiently and thoroughly.
The AG also instructed to carry out criminal investigations against all individuals who had aided and abetted MP Bathiudeen to evade arrest and remain in hiding and to report to the court.
AG de Livera instructed to specially investigate into the individuals who held press conferences and made statements that the former minister was in hiding, she said.
The AG also called for reports on the progress in investigations within the next two weeks.