The Sunday Leader

Probe On Prison Officials And Drug Kingpins

  • Bribes paid for special perks for suspects

By Nirmala Kannangara

The person who was allowed to enter Court cell to
speak to Siddique, Siddique and his visitor, both handcuffed,
being taken to the main cell, Wele Suda and Mohammed Siddique

The issue of the alleged involvement of prison officials in aiding and providing various facilities to suspects in remand and convicts in jail came out in to the open last week. Last week it was confirmed that certain prison officials are involved in aiding and abetting alleged drug smugglers in custody in order to make quick money. The incident took place at the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s court, where prison officials were caught red handed felicitating an unknown outsider to enter into the court cell to meet alleged drug kingpin Mohammed Siddique.

According to the Commissioner General of Prisons, these prison officials have not only committed a crime by allowing an outsider to enter the court cell to talk to a prisoner in private, but by also handcuffing a person who is not a prisoner.

It was later reported that the unknown visitor is believed to be one of Siddique’s brothers.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after a comprehensive investigation had unearthed the connection certain prison officers are having with the alleged drug dealer Gampola Vidanage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda and how they were offered ‘gifts’ in the form of cash as bribes through electronic money transfer system- eZ Cash using mobile phones.

Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Financial Crimes Division, CID, Chief Inspector I. Weerasinghe on Tuesday told the Colombo Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya that 174 people had got money from Wele Suda and 47 out of them had been identified as prison officers. The CID meanwhile had informed court that six close confidants of Wele Suda had been arrested for their alleged involvement in bribing certain people to obtain their support in  drug trafficking and they are Suraj Ahamed, Asanka Chanaka Fonseka, Sugath Kumara, Nisansala Sandakumari,  Nadisha Nilmin and S. Shanaka.


 Money Laundering

The CID had later revealed how Saliya Kumara former brother-in-law of Wele Suda and his mistress Nadeesha Nilmini together with the rest had allegedly sold heroin and laundered the illegally earned money to the tune of more than Rs. 24 million. Saliya Kumara’s mistress had allegedly deposited over Rs.16 million in her personal bank account.

The Colombo Chief Magistrate had further remanded these six suspects till October 2.

Meanwhile Jailor Indika Ganegoda, Sergeant K.M.W. Keerthisinghe and Jail Guard K.M. Kumara had been interdicted for allegedly facilitating a meeting between an unknown person and Siddique in the Magistrate Court cell.

Commissioner General of Prisons Rohana Pushpakumara said that although there were instances where prison officers have been arrested or sacked for smuggling drugs to the prison wards on earlier occasions, the incident at the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court was the first where prison officers were found allowing outsiders to come into the cell in a court house to meet a prisoner.

“This is a grave crime. By allowing an outsider to enter a court cell, the prison officers have committed a punishable offense. When the law has barred the prison officers from accepting even a bottle of water from a family member of a prisoner to be given to the prisoner, how could they break the law openly in a court house and allow this Muslim national to get into the cell and walk out of the cell handcuffed with the suspect,” Pushpakumara queried.

According to Pushpakumara, after an initial inquiry, three prison officers – a Jailor, a Sergeant and a Jail Guard were interdicted and added that the Prison’s Department is now conducting further investigations into the matter and said charge sheets will be given to these three officers with in the next few days.


Bribes with eZ cash

“The CID has informed the Colombo Magistrate’s Court that they have found 47 prison officers’ are involved in drug dealing and are being paid money through eZ Cash by drug kingpin Wele Suda. I immediately wrote to the CID and the IGP to let us know who these 47 prison officers are so we can take initial action against them and interdict them from service if found guilty,” Pushpakumara added.

Referring to the Colombo Magistrate’s Court incident, Pushpakumara said that despite the prison authority’s orders given to the prison officers who take Siddique to court not to allow him to mingle with other prisoners for security reasons and have been directed to escort him separately from other inmates, the video footage has shown how the prison officers have deliberately ignored the orders and even an outsider had been allowed into the court cell and later taking him out handcuffed along with Siddique.

“The man who walked into the court cell wearing the white cap was later seen coming out without the cap talking to Siddique. However he later was seen walking out freely once again wearing the white cap,” Pushpakumara said.

Siddique who is a alleged drug trafficker and said to be the person who had allegedly supplied drugs to Wele Suda was brought to the country in March this year and was handed over to the CID following his arrest in Pakistan on an Interpol warrant. He is alleged to have been engaged in drug trafficking in a large scale between Sri Lanka and Pakistan and was a resident of Dematagoda before he fled to Pakistan with Wele Suda.

When asked whether Siddique and Wele Suda had been kept in the same cell at Welikada, the Prisons Commissioner said that the two are in separate cells and added that special attention have been given to them to see whether they are getting any special facilities from the prison officers.


One man commission

“They are now under observation. Wele Suda is in Welikada while Siddique is in remand prison,” he added.

Pushpakumara further said that a one man commission would be appointed to inquire into the matter and added that the Commission member would be selected from the retired high ranking officers from the Ministry of Public Administration pool.

“Once the CID submits the names of the 47 prison officers who have been paid by Wele Suda to us, we will initiate an internal inquiry and if found guilty their services too will be terminated. Once we give them charge sheets they can submit their explanations and if found guilty, the Commissioner General of Prisons has the authority to take action against the wrongdoers.

Depending on the seriousness of the crime they have committed, the punishment will be given,” Pushpakumara claimed.

According to Pushpakumara, following the reported incident at the Colombo Magistrate’s Court last week, the Prisons Department has taken a decision to deploy intelligence officers attached to the Prisons Department in all major court houses – Colombo, Maligakanda, Gangodawila, Hulftsdorph and Mt. Lavinia to curb theses illegal work from September 21.

Meanwhile, a reliable prison official who wished to remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader how a high ranking prison official is alleged to have received money from Wele Suda to construct the roof at his residence.

“The present Commissioner General of Prisons is a strict administrator and most of the prison officers like him for his unwavering stand. He has taken firm decisions whether it hurts the corrupt officials or not as it does not matter to him. However, the Commissioner General is not aware how this higher official has allegedly obtained money from Wele Suda but we assume this officer’s name too would be among the 47 names the CID had given to the courts,” sources claimed.

The sources further claimed how, Wele Suda had given money to prison officers to spend lavishly on their children’s’ birthday parties, puberty ceremonies and even for weddings.

“These are what we know but they may have obtained monies even to purchase properties which are not known,” sources alleged.

According to him, the three interdicted officers had taken Rs.15,000 from Siddique’s unknown visitor and added that although this incident could open the eyes of the respective officials not only in the Prisons Department but also at the Justice Ministry as well, outside visitors are frequently allowed to meet the prisoners in court.

“As reporters are keeping an eye on cases like Siddique’s this particular incident was videoed and the prison officers who were involved in the racket were identified. But how many such incidents are taking place every day in most of the court houses for money? Even the genuine officers cannot open their mouths against these knowing what the consequences would be. Only the families or friends of underprivileged prisoners are not allowed even to pass a bottle of water to quench their thirst, but the friends and families of the affluent prisoners get special privileges to talk to their relatives secretly when in courts as they cannot talk anything secretly when in prison,” sources added.

However, he hailed the Prison Commissioner’s decision to deploy prison intelligence officers to Colombo and its suburbs courts from last week to curb this menace.

Meanwhile, Attorney-at-law Thushara N. Daskon told The Sunday Leader that he informed the Colombo Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya immediately when he came to know how the prison officers have taken an outsider to talk to Siddique.

According to Daskon, interdicting only three prison officials cannot be justified as there were many more prison officers.

“Who can say that only these three were involved in this racket. Now it has been revealed how Wele Suda has called 47 prison officers. Had these calls been taken to find out their wellbeing? No this is a racket. Until the Prisons are reformed whatever actions are taken against the prisoners or its officers is of no use. Not only the prisoners have to be rehabilitated but even the prison officers who are corrupt too have to be reformed,” Daskon stated.


Prison Officials Accused Of Trafficking Drugs

The Negombo prison has also become a haven for drug dealers. The prison is a luxury hotel for a section of inmates- the big time drug dealers who are affiliated to notorious politicians.

Reliable inside sources from Negombo prison on basis of anonymity told The Sunday Leader that there are few senior and junior prison officers who wants to eradicate illegal activities including drug peddling within the prison premises, but has failed due to some higher officials’ unjustifiable interference by preventing them from implementing law and order in the prison.

“Drug means money. There are times the higher prison officials and politicians want the prison staff to help out their ‘people’ who are behind bars. Although these officials and politicians behave like saints outside, they are the bane for all illegal activities in every prison,” the sources added.

According to the sources, their determination and ability to perform an illustrious job gets diluted due to political interference.

“This does not apply only to jail officers but to each and every law abiding citizen of this country. It is a myth if somebody says that a criminal can be refined by putting him behind bars. Although the prisoners cannot commit crimes within the prison we have come across a very few such incidents in prisons, this is the most corrupted place in the country. I have worked at Welikada and Kalutara prisons as well and all these places are the same. The corruption rate in prisons are more than 100, 000% higher compared to other institutions,” the sources added.

This prison officer described as to how the ‘powerful’ drug dealers, and criminals in the Negombo prison get body massages by prison workers.

“There are unofficial massage parlours in the ‘A’ ward and deke wattuwa (Ward 2). The service is provided by the workers. These ‘powerful’ inmates are also entitled to TVs and they have the luxury to get their preferred food cooked,” the sources alleged.

Meanwhile, the source claimed how heroin or Kerala ganja is easily smuggled to the cells if the jail guards are given five hundred rupees.

“The drug addicts in the prison with no political affiliation too can get drugs if the prison guards are paid. Tiny heroin packets are placed inside chicken bones. Once the drug packets are inserted in to the chicken bones it is properly covered with chicken meat or curry leaves. It is the same with beef as well. Drug packets are easily placed inside the beef marrow bone and smuggled to the cells,” he added.

This officer further said as to how the jail guards sell heroin to the prisoners even on their way to courts.

“The jailors know who the drug addicts are and if money is given to jail guards, they provide the addicts with heroin. This heroin is given by the ‘powerful’ inmates and these jail guards make money through these businesses,” he alleged.

According to the sources, the ‘powerful’ prisoners not only can get illegal drugs to the prison but also telephones and ammunitions as well.

2 Comments for “Probe On Prison Officials And Drug Kingpins”

  1. de silva

    i wonder if BBS has a point when they attack muslims for wrong doings, when we see them blatantly violating the countrys laws with their ill gotten wealth.

    all muslims may not b at fault, but see the kingpins who destroy the fabric of our society are siddiqs/ potta nnaufers and many more if one goes through the list.
    wele sudas are also there, but te larger number is from where?
    time the religious eaders took it upon themselves to clense this.

  2. Clve Fernando

    Take a good look at the history of the drug trade in Negombo controlled by the ex mayor Nimal Lanza. Very interesting.

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