Former Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte who appeared in courts on charges of having spent Rs. 45 million over and above his declared income was released on conditional bail by Colombo Additional Magistrate yesterday.
Magistrate Ajith Anavaratne ordered the release on cash bail of Rs. 25,000 and the production of two guarantors on surety bail of Rs. 300,000 each.
When the Additional Magistrate ordered that Gen. Ratwatte`s passport be impounded, his counsel Rienzie Arusakularatne claimed that the passport was already in the custody of the Colombo High Court.
Bribery Commission, Deputy Director (Investigations) Sarath Somaweera who filed the charges said the commission had begun inquiries on a complaint made by former CID Director.
DIG Somaweera said the CID, after obtaining a warrant from the Fort Magistrate`s Court searched the vault at the Hatton National Bank on a tip-off that unlicensed firearms, gold and narcotics could be hidden in a safe-deposit box belonging to Gen. Ratwatte and his wife.
He said in their search they found 88 treasury bills totalling to Rs. 42.18 million. DIG Somaweera said although the owners of the safe-deposit box had been questioned as to how they came to posses the treasury bills, they were unable to provide an acceptable explanation.
He told court that this prompted the Bribery Commission to begin a detailed investigation into the matter and institute legal action. DIG Somaweera said an investigation into Gen. Ratwatte`s assets between March 31, 1997 and August 31, 2002 had revealed, the General had spent Rs. 41.5 million more than his income.
He told the Magistrate the investigations were now complete and the commission had no objection to the suspect being granted bail on the condition that he would present himself in court when notified.
The DIG also requested the Magistrate to disallow Gen. Ratwatte to leave the country without seeking the permission of the court.
Counsel for the suspect, Hareen Gomes, Priyantha Upali Amarasinghe, Wasantha Batagoda, Thejitha Korala and Rienzie Arasakularatne asked the court to ensure the charges were filed before the High Court as soon as possible.
Mr. Arasakularatne asked court that his client be released on bail now that investigations had ended. Responding to a question by the Magistrate about whether the investigation was over, DIG Somaweera responded that it was and that charges are to be filed in the High Court. The case has been fixed for November 2.