FCID: Will the big fish be nabbed?

FCID earns its spurs

Daily News Editorial

The Police Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) has come in for heavy flak by the Joint Opposition from the very day it was established exactly two years ago, and not surprisingly. The special police unit had not just caused huge embarrassment to many among the JO but also nightmares to the top echelons of the former regime faced with allegations of financial crimes. But the FCID had soldiered along, undaunted, going by the highly complicated cases it has cracked, revealing the sordid details of financial skulduggery. It could justly be proud of itself, not just for the good work done, but also the contribution it is making to the state coffers.

According to our weekend publication, the Sunday Observer, the FCID which completed two years yesterday (26) had raised nearly Rs.1 billion through the detection of misappropriated state and unduly earned assets by politicians through its investigations. It goes on to give out a list of VIP politicians and those near and dear to them under probe. Image result for Basil Malwana Property cartoonProminent in this list is Basil Rajapaksa, the super minister in the former regime. Among the major assets in illegal possession of BR, recovered, are the house and land in Orutota, valued at over Rs. 50 million, and the land and house seized at Brown Hill Matara, also worth over Rs. 50 million. There is also the house in Malwana, which is much in the news these days, jointly owned by BR and Thirukumar Nadesan, a wheeler dealer businessman and close Rajapaksa relative, said to be worth over Rs. 200 million. The property is slated to be auctioned in the coming days and the proceeds remitted to the Treasury.

The senior Rajapaksa apart, the FCID has also tightened the noose around the other members of the Rajapaksa family. It has taken over the building and equipment of the CSN TV channel and another Rs. 163 million recovered following investigations into CSN operations. According to the Observer report, the FCID, during the two year period had investigated 74 out of the 322 cases referred to it and says that a stream of arrests are imminent as it had completed investigations into many cases and awaiting the response of the Attorney General.

The FCID should be commended for rising to the challenge and going to great lengths to unravel the corrupt acts under the former regime. Its officers were doing their job at risk to themselves with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself issuing direct threats at this special police unit at public rallies, investigating the doings of his siblings and progeny. The FCID is also being called names by JO politicians and certain media with some cantankerous elements threatening to shut down the Unit when it came to power and taking to task the officers involved in the investigations. One newspaper, partial to the Rajapaksas, continues to call it the Gestapo of the government, overlooking the fact that it is just another unit of the police, employing men of special skills, to carry out complicated investigations where the trail of the ill got wealth had been cleverly concealed.

Be that as it may, the public are yet skeptical if the big fish will be nabbed. This is because those who committed day light robbery are still walking freely and, what is more, are even going places. This naturally has brought about a sense of frustration among the public who believed those who plundered the national wealth would be brought to justice no sooner the Yahapalanaya government took office. They will not appreciate the fact that the justice system is a long drawn out process and, what is more, successful prosecution is not a certainty, given the law as it stands. The talk everywhere is ko elluwa? Instead what they see everyday on television is those, against whom serious allegations were made, beaming from ear to ear and making public statements with a panache.

The government, therefore, should take steps to speed up the process of justice in this connection and even appoint a special tribunal as suggested by Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama on the lines of the Criminal Justice Commission of yore. Wrong doers are getting emboldened with each passing day, with nothing happening. On the contrary, they have now trained their guns on the government and are seen trooping to the Bribery Commission with a so called Top Ten list of Ministers. Certainly, wrong doers in the present government too should be probed. Even the President is on record saying there are rogues in government, both, then and now. But this should not detract from the main mission of the government to go after the big names of the former regime who are said to have stashed their loot in overseas accounts.

The Yahapalanaya mandate was to nab these rogues, plunderers and fraudsters and return the billions to the country. The FCID has managed to recover only Rs. 1 billion worth of stolen assets so far. This, as many would agree, is just a drop in the bucket. More so, considering the nature of the allegations made during the hustings.