Corruption case of Ratwatte resumes
The trial against former Deputy Defence Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte who was charged for corruption after being unable to account for his assets worth Rs. 46 million was fixed for October 11.
Anuruddha Ratwatte was summoned to court to continue the rest of the trial which was stopped half way at the end of the prosecution case in November 2007. The former Deputy Defence Minister had been released when his lawyers made an objection to the High Court that their client had not been given an opportunity to answer the charges against him. On November 30, 2007, judge Deepali Wijesundara released Ratwatte who had been indicted for being unable to account for his assets including money and property amounting to Rs. 46 million during the period March 31, 1997 and August 31, 2002. Filing the indictment under section 23 a (3) of the Bribery Act, the Director General of the Bribery Commission had complained that Anuruddha Ratwatte could not have collected the said sum from his own income.
According to the indictment Mr. Ratwatte was in possession of Rs. 34,593,698 in cash and certificates of deposit and property valued at Rs 12,363,905. The estimated money included expenses on living costs from March 31, 1997 to August 31, 2002, expenses on 2000 and 2001 General elections, expenses on purchasing a vehicle and money he had spent purchasing savings certificates from different private banks including National Development Bank, Hatton National Bank, Pan Asia Bank, and Sampath Bank. At the time of the alleged offence Gen. Ratwatte was a parliamentarian from the Kandy district, Deputy Minister of Defence and Minister of Power and Energy. However before the defence case is started, defence counsel Rienzie Arsecularatne PC had argued that trial should be stopped and Ratwatte should be discharged as the Bribery Commission had violated the procedure. According to the Bribery Act, prior to action being instituted the suspect should be given an opportunity to show cause as to why he should not be prosecuted. The Commission also must prove that either the person has failed to show cause or the explanation is unsatisfactory in the opinion of the Bribery Commission, counsel had stated.
In his argument counsel Arsecularatne also had said that the Bribery Commission had not rejected Mr. Ratwatte’s answers against the corruption allegations and having led the evidence of 25 prosecution witnesses, none of the witnesses had rejected the accused answers. Subsequently then High Court Judge had upheld the defence argument and had released Anuruddha Ratwatte.
However the Bribery Commission had challenged the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal and on last July directed the Appeal Court to set aside the High Court order and proceed with the trial against Gen. Ratwatte on his accumulation of Rs. 46 million worth of property and money. In their order Appeal Court judges Justices D.S.C. Lekamwasam and W.L.R. Silva had held that the Bribery Commission was not bound to issue a certificate or a letter of dissatisfaction and stated that the institution of an action in the High Court is proof of such dissatisfaction.
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