Court bails husband-wife duo in smuggling racket
By Kavindya Perera
Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratna yesterday enlarged on bail the two suspects who were remanded on charges of smuggling foreign currency to the country and the illegal purchase of lands from several areas, including one that had belonged to a leading private hospital in the metropolis.
The two suspects who were granted bail were identified as Rienzie Mahesh Edwards and his spouse Punya Priyanji Menike Edwards, who are residents of Railway Avenue, Nugegoda.
The first suspect in the case Rienzie Edwards was ordered to be enlarged on cash bail of Rs 500,000 and on three sureties of Rs 2 million each, while the second suspect Punya Edwards was ordered to be released on cash bail of Rs 5,000 and on two sureties of Rs 2 million each.
The two suspects were not produced in Court and the Chief Magistrate conducted the proceedings through SKYPE technology. Afterwards, Jayaratna issued an order to prohibit overseas travel for the two suspects and issued a further bail condition ordering the duo to be present before the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) on each Sunday between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.
The two suspects were represented in Court by President’s Counsels Romesh de Silva, M.U.M. Ali Sabry and Jayantha Weerasingha. Senior officers from the FCID appeared for the prosecution.
Granting bail to the suspect duo, Chief Magistrate Jayaratna said there were no witnesses who could intimidate or influence the two defendants and that there was only documentary evidence.
She said that the initial offence had taken place overseas and that legal action in this regard had already been instituted by that country and hence was ordering to enlarge the two suspects on bail as per provisions contained in Section 14 of the Bail Act.
The FCID had made initial submissions to the Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court in connection with the case, as per an order received from the then Inspector General of Police on 29 July five years ago. The FCID had informed that a complaint lodged with it had stated that the two suspects had incurred a sum of Rs 2.6 billion to purchase a land owned by a private hospital at 37, Horton Place, Colombo 7. They had previously informed that based on an order obtained, they had perused bank documents related to the questionable purchase of property from the said area. Further investigations had revealed that through the bank account owned by Attorney Romesh Madduma Bandara Karaliyaddha, a sum of Rs 2.7 billion had been paid to a private hospital concerning the purchase of the said property.
The FCID had informed that its lengthy probe into the case had also revealed that based on an agreement signed between Karaliyadda and the first suspect Rienzie Edwards, the monies had been brought to the country through the bank account of Karaliyaddha. They had said that in order to assure that the monies would be brought to the country through the said Attorney’s account, the two suspects had promised the Attorney concerned through an agreement signed, that 0.5 per cent of the money brought down would be handed over to him. The prosecution had previously said that based on an order obtained and having perused the bank accounts of the two suspects, Karaliyaddha and the firm L.B. Karaliyaddha Associates of which the Attorney had functioned as a Director, monies had been deposited to the said bank accounts from abroad.
Furthermore, overseas travels of the two suspects Rienzie Edwards and his wife Punya Edwards were prohibited by the Court earlier.
The trial was fixed for further hearing on 3 September.