Jan 17, Colombo: The Permanent High Court at Bar today granted bail to the Chairman of the Avant Garde Maritime Services Company, Nissanka Yapa Senadhipathi, who is charged with illegally operating a floating armory on board the MV Avant Garde, and ordered the acquittal of five defendants in the case.
The Attorney General (AG) has filed 7,573 charges against 13 suspects including Nissanka Senadhipathi involved in the Avant-Garde floating armory case before a three-member trial-at-bar at the Colombo High Court.
The suspects have been charged over this case for violating the Firearms Ordinance, Explosives Ordinance, and the Penal Code in connection with the possession of 816 automatic firearms and ammunition 200935 on board the MV Avant Garde without proper license or permit between April 7, 2014, and October 6, 2015.
The Bench comprising Justices Dhammika Ganepola, Aditya Patabendige and Manjula Tilakaratne acquitted the five defendants and granted bail to the seventh accused Nissanka Senadhipathi when the case was taken up for hearing today.
Accordingly, the three judge bench released Mr. Senadhipathi on a cash bail of Rs. 500,000 and two sureties of Rs. 2.5 million each. He has also been banned from going abroad without court permission and ordered to surrender his passport to the court.
The bench ordered to release Rakna Lanka Security Company, Avant Garde Maritime Services Company, Retired Army Major General Palitha Fernando, Retired Army Major General B. Egodawela, and former Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Damayanthi Jayaratne, who were named as defendants.
At the hearing of the case earlier, the lawyers of the defense filed a preliminary objection arguing that two companies were the first and second defendants in the case and that the two companies that were established before the law could not be prosecuted.
Accordingly, they have requested the court to rule that the charge sheet filed by the Attorney General is flawed and illegal.
The three-judge bench, ruling on the preliminary objections, said only natural persons could be charged under the Firearms Ordinance and Explosives Ordinance. The Judges have noted that legal firms cannot be charged with such violations.
The three-judge bench pointed out that out of the 7573 charges against the defendants, only 19 could be maintained. All the other charges were flawed and illegal.
Accordingly, the court decided to release the five defendants and prosecute the eight remaining defendants including the Chairman of the Avant Garde Maritime Services for the remaining 19 charges. The case will be called again on February 10.
Judge Aditya Patabendige, chairman of the three-member panel of judges, pointed out that the State's Attorney has the ability to consider whether to continue the case further.
However, lawyer appearing on behalf of Nissanka Yapa Senadhipathi requested the court to release his client on bail since he has been remanded for over three months.
Senior State Counsel, Janaka Bandara, appearing for the plaintiff, said since the charges raised in the present are bailable offenses, the prosecution does not oppose granting bail to Mr. Senadhipathi.
The court accordingly, granted bail to Mr. Senadhipathi and fixed February 10 for the next hearing.
The defendants were accused of causing a financial loss to the tune of 11.4 billion rupees to the Government by granting approval to the Avant Garde Maritime Services to operate a floating armory in Galle Harbor during the period from 07 August 2012 to 8 January 2015.