Lak Sathosa garlic scam: CID ‘Murder Unit’ intervenes

Ex-CAA Director questions rationale in probe on Bandula complaint

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Executive Director of the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Thushan Gunawardena says the Murder Investigation Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiring into his accusations regarding the massive garlic scam in the state-owned enterprise, Lak Sathosa, wanted to question him. Gunawardena told The Island that the Officer-in-Charge of that unit, Chief Inspector L.D.S.B. Jayasekera had asked him to report to the Murder Investigation Unit today (22) at

Gunawardena said that he was quite surprised by the Murder Unit’s intervention at the behest of the IGP C.D. Wickremaratne following a complaint lodged by Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena. Pointing out that the CID had informed him that he was being dealt with in terms of Code of Criminal Procedure Act (No 15 of 1979) Section 109 (6), Gunawardena said that the Trade Minister himself admitted in Parliament that there had been a garlic scam at Lak Sathosa.

Gunawardena said that the CID had recorded his statement on Oct. 8 in this regard. Responding to another query, Gunawardena pointed out that at the time the CID recorded his statement, over a dozen journalists, including several editors of national newspapers, had been asked to make statements.

Gunawardena reiterated that the top management of Sathosa had brazenly manipulated a Cabinet directive, meant to ensure the steady supply of food items to Sathosa outlets. The Trade Minister couldn’t claim he had not been aware of what was going on at an enterprise under his purview, Gunawardena charged. Several management level persons had been arrested along with outsiders involved in the scam, Gunawardena said, adding that the SLPP government should be ashamed of its pathetic failure to ensure essential items at reasonable prices.

Gunawardena said that 56,000 kilos of garlic, released by Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to Sathosa, had been sold to a regular Lak Sathosa supplier at Rs 135 a kilo. The Sathosa management had planned to buy back the same consignment at Rs 445 a kilo and then make it available to consumers at about Rs 540 a kilo. The plan had gone awry due to an unexpected raid carried out by the then CAA, under his direction Gunawardena said, adding Sathosa had sold the stock at such a low price on the basis of poor quality in spite of Quality Assurance clearance.

Responding to The Island queries, Gunawardena emphasized that many food consignments had been rerouted the same way. He said that such a massive fraud couldn’t have been carried out without political backing. A container load of orid (undu) had been among the consignments sold the same way, he said, insisting that Sathosa, and a select group of suppliers had been involved in the particular racket. “Politicians cannot be unaware of what is going on.”

Gunawardena asked whether the CID had initiated an inquiry into the recent shocking revelations pertaining to corruption at the state owned Litro Gas. Pointing out that as in the case of Lak Sathosa, the corruption charges were made by a person within the organisation Chairman and CEO of Litro Gas and Litro Terminals Theshara Jayasinghe, Gunawardena said that Parliament should make an urgent intervention. “

Gunawardena also said that the CID had never inquired into his complaints regarding corruption at Lak Sathosa lodged well over a year back.

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