Drug procurement scam: Cabinet Office hands over documents to CID




Incriminating fresh statement from cancer drug supplier recorded

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Cabinet Office has handed over the documents requested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigating the procurement of fake immunoglobulin by the Health Ministry.

Authoritative sources said that the two sets of documents had been handed over to the CID so far and a third set would be sent within the next few days. Sources said so when The Island sought clarification from the Cabinet Office regarding the directive issued by Maligakanda Magistrate Lochana Abeywickrema to the Cabinet Secretary in this regard.

The Magistrate issued the directive on Dec 28, 2023. However, the Cabinet Office had released some of the documents required by the CID, even before the Dec 28 directive.

The CID is likely to receive the third set of documents from the Cabinet Office before the case is called again on Jan 10, according to sources.

Cabinet Secretary W. M. D. J. Fernando was not available for comment both on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The CID has also recorded several statements from officers of the Cabinet Office.

Magistrate Abeywickrema issued the aforesaid directive after the Attorney General’s Department informed court of President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s response to the then Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella making reference to a particular supplier of medicine submitted to the Cabinet. President Wickremesinghe has said that such a reference shouldn’t have been made. The Kandy district lawmaker served as the Health Minister from 16 Aug., 2021 to 23 Dec., 2023.

So far six persons, including former Ministry Secretary Janaka Sri Chandragupta also of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, and the supplier of fake immunoglobulin. Hewage Sugath Janaka Fernando, the proprietor of Isolez Biotech Pharma, situated at Seeduwa, has been remanded till Jan 10 pending investigations. Fernando is the first suspect in the high profile case.

The other suspects on remand are the Director of the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) Kapila Wickramanayake, Accountant (Supplies) Niran Dananjaya, Assistant Director, M.S.D. Shanthi Solomon and Stores Manager Sujith Kumara.

Following submissions made by the Attorney-at-Law Jaliya Samarasinghe, the Counsel for the first suspect, Magistrate Abeywickrema directed that a fresh statement be recorded from him. Lawyer Samarasinghe has alleged that the CID declined to record his client’s statement that implicated the then Health Minister Rambukwella.

Samarasinghe yesterday (03) told The Island that CID had recorded his client’s statement the day after the Magistrate issued the new directive. The first suspect has alleged that he acted in accordance with the instructions received from Minister Rambukwella and the then Chief Executive Officer of National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Dr. Vijith Gunasekera.

Samarasinghe emphasised that his client wouldn’t accompany the CID to inspect the Isolez Biotech Pharma plant as requested by the police. The CID couldn’t expect the suspect to cooperate with them after they forcibly entered the premises previously, Samarasinghe said.

Former Bar Association President Kalinga Indatissa, PC, who initially appeared for the first suspect, declared in the Maligakanda MC that the mastermind of the immunoglobulin scam was among the Cabinet-of-Ministers. Subsequently, Samarasinghe took over the case.

Counsel Samarasinghe also raised in the Maligakanda court the issue of CID recording Minister Rambukwella’s statement at his residence contrary to the procedure followed in respect of other suspects. Magistrate Abeywickrama asked the CID to follow a common approach when obtaining statements.

It has transpired that in October 2022, a month after Parliament defeated the no-confidence motion moved against Minister Rambukwella, the Health Ministry’s three-member Health Sector Emergency Procurement Committee (HSEPC), chaired by Chandraguptha, awarded the full tender for 22,500 phials of immunoglobulin to the first suspect. The total value of the contract was US$ 2,925,000 (over Rs. 960 mn). In addition, the first suspect’s company has received other orders, according to available records.