Former Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella was arrested yesterday evening (02) in connection with his alleged complicity in the procurement of substandard human intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).

The arrest comes hot on the heels of mounting pressure from civil society activists and health sector trade unionists who have been calling for the immediate apprehension of the lawmaker.

The current Environment Minister arrived at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) premises on Friday morning, complying with a court order issued yesterday. He was grilled for nearly 10 hours.

The former health minister was supposed to make an appearance before the CID on Wednesday (Jan.31), but he failed to do so on account of attending the proceedings of a case heard before the Colombo High Court, as well as a ministerial sub-committee meeting convened at the Presidential Secretariat. Thus, Rambukwella had requested the CID to fix another date for him to provide his statement.

On Thursday (Feb.01), the Maligakanda Magistrate ordered the former health minister to appear before the CID to record a statement on his alleged involvement in the substandard medicine procurement scandal.

Additionally, the lawmaker was slapped with a foreign travel ban.

Meanwhile, the Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Dr. Saman Ratnakaye was grilled by the CID officers for nearly 10 hours on Wednesday.

In October 2023, the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) revealed that forged documents were found to have been submitted for Customs clearance to procure a batch of vials containing human immunoglobulin, an antibody produced by blood plasma cells, which later failed the quality tests.

The product, which was said to have been manufactured by Livealth Biopharma Pvt Ltd. India, was imported by a local medicine supplier called Isolez Biotech Pharma AG (Pvt) Ltd. However, the India-based manufacturer has denied having a hand in this fraudulent activity and communicated to the NMRA that it has neither manufactured, supplied nor exported these products to any party.

It was also found that funds amounting to Rs. 130 million were misappropriated through the unlawful procurement of 22,500 vials of IVIG.

Seven suspects including former Secretary to the Ministry of Health Janaka Chandragupta were later arrested in connection with the scam, however, the fifth accused in the case is now out on bail on the orders of the Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court.

The former Health Secretary, the Director of the Health Ministry’s Medical Supplies Division (MSD) and three other officials of the same division, as well as the owner of the company, which is said to have supplied the substandard batch of immunoglobulin vials, remain in custody on remand.

After the scam came to light, Rambukwella was given the portfolio of Environment Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle in October last year. Accordingly, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana was appointed as the Health Minister in addition to his current portfolio as Minister of Industries.



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