Action against gold smuggling MP: Take it courts, Parliament unable to take action: Speaker

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Action against gold smuggling MP: Take it courts, Parliament unable to take action: Speaker

Since there is no action that the Parliament can take against the illegal activities of Puttalam District Parliamentarian Ali Sabri Raheem, Speaker of the Parliament, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena yesterday (28) suggested that concerned parties should take the matter before courts.

MP Raheem was arrested by the Customs officials for smuggling a consignment of gold and mobile phones worth nearly Rs. 70 million to Sri Lanka from Dubai last week and was fined under the customs legislation and subsequently released.  

The Customs officials on duty at the BIA had impounded a total of 3.5 kilograms of undeclared gold and a load of mobile phones in Raheem’s possession, who was on exit through the ‘VIP channel’ on May 23.

When asked by The Daily Morning as to whether the Parliament would take any action against the said MP, Abeywardena explained that there is no possibility for the Parliament to take any action in this regard. He said: "According to the law, there is nothing that the Parliament can do. This is something that has to be dealt with at the court."

When asked as to whether the Parliament would pay attention to the letter signed by 20 MPs including Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Leader, Sajith Premadasa, through which he (Abeywardena) had been requested to initiate strict action against Raheem, and he said: "Anyone can make requests, but there is nothing that this institute can do. Concerned parties should seek any action by taking the case to courts.” 

MP Raheem was not available for comment. Earlier last week, Raheem claimed that he was unaware of the gold and the mobile phones in his luggage, stressing that n the luggage was given to him by a known person. However, according to reports, Raheem had undertaken to pay the hefty fine which was imposed by the Customs, raising questions as to why he would do so if he was honestly innocent in the case. 

In a letter which was handed over to Abeywardena on 25 May, Premadasa and 19 other MPs had said that the concerned MP had used his Parliamentary privileges and diplomatic passport to smuggle gold and mobile phones through the VIP terminal of the BIA. The MPs said that the Code of Ethics for MPs passed in 2008 had been completely violated by the MP Raheem. It further stated that the Customs had confiscated all the goods brought by the MP, and imposed a fine of Rs. 7.5 million, but the Parliament should also take strict action on Raheem for him being a Member of Parliament. Meanwhile, Parliamentary party leaders had also decided to call on all MPs to make an official request to Raheem to relinquish his seat in Parliament.