Two suspects including National Freedom Front leader MP Wimal Weerawansa arrested for allegedly misusing 40 vehicles belonging to the State Engineering Corporation (SEC) while functioning as the Housing, Construction and Engineering Services Minister incurring a loss of Rs. 91 million to the government were yesterday ordered to be remanded till January 24 by Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne.
Weerawansa and SEC former Deputy General Manager Samantha Lokuhennage were arrested by the FCID under Public Property Act charges.
The FCID conducting investigations into the alleged misuse of state vehicles informed Court that Weerawansa had given his written and verbal approval to the commission to commit these offences while functioning as the Housing, Construction and Engineering Services Minister.
“These vehicles had been given to the SEC on a rental basis to carry out ministerial functions. However, the vehicles in question had been given to five relatives of the former minister including his sister. Ten other vehicles were given to 10 officials of the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna and the other vehicles were given to his staff members who were not entitled to receive them,” the FCID added.
The FCID alleged that Weerawansa had given these vehicles for the use of his close relatives and private staff members without Treasury approval during 2010 to 2015. President’s Counsel Jayantha Weerasinghe appearing for Weerawansa told Court that the FCID is conducting a politically motivated inquiry to punish the government’s political opponents.
“My client did not receive any financial benefit from this. There is no iota of evidence to prove that my client misappropriated public funds,” the defence counsel argued.
Meanwhile, the defence counsel moved court that Weerawansa be released on bail taking into consideration his 15-year-old daughter’ health condition as exceptional circumstance.
The defence counsel informed Court his client’s daughter was suffering from mental distress following a social media campaign against his family following the death of a youth at his residence recently.
President’s Counsel Shavendra Fernando appearing on behalf of the second suspect informed Court that the FCID has taken measures to leave out certain individuals including the former SEC chairman from the inquiry.
The magistrate observed that she would announce her bail order regarding the suspects on the next hearing date and ordered them to be remanded until January 24.
The magistrate also ordered the FCID to take legal action against the other persons responsible for the alleged offences.
The FCID had filed a B report in Court against Weerawansa alleging that he misused 40 vehicles while functioning as the Housing, Construction and Engineering Services Minister incurring a loss of Rs. 91 million to the state.