Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal on Wednesday suspended a magisterial inquiry against former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and several others who are facing criminal charges.
The CA prevented the Colombo Magistrate’s Court proceeding with the trial of Rajapaksa and others in a case filed by the bribery commission for causing a loss of 11.4 billion rupees to the state.
The bribery commission (CIABOC) was asked to submit objections by August 26 and a further hearing was put off for September 28.
Gotabhaya, as defence secretary during the rule of his president brother Mahinda, is alleged to have illegally allowed Avant Garde Maritime Services to operate floating armouries and deprived the state of revenue.
A sea marshal operation carried out by the Sri Lankan navy was handed over Avant Garde causing massive losses to the state when Rajapaksa was defence secretary, it is alleged.
The private firm was separately accused of money laundering and gun running.
The latest setback to the prosecution of Rajapaksa came after two Supreme Court justices recused themselves from hearing a fundamental rights petition filed by Rajapaksa.
The highest court in May ordered its registrar not to list justices Eva Wanasundara, Vijith Malalgoda, Buwaneka Aluvihara and Priyantha Jayawardane to hear Rajapaksa’s case as they had recused themselves.
However, an order preventing the arrest of Rajapaksa issued by Wanasundara had been left in operation.
Officials said the Supreme Court order prevents the authorities from arresting Rajapaksa in connection with other ongoing investigations $7.5 million corruption involving the MiG aircraft purchase, gun running and a controversial share transaction in Lanka Hospitals.
Since May 2015, the order preventing the arrest of Rajapaksa is in operation and Supreme Court judges have been putting off hearing for various reasons, including some recusing themselves.
In another similar decision, the Court of Appeal in November last year prevented Rajapaksa from being arrested in the Medamulana Monument case where he is accused of using state money to build a monument to his late parents.