The Tsunami funds scandal popularly known as the Helping Hambantota case
On December 26, 2004 a devastating Tsunami hit Sri Lanka’s southern and Eastern Coastline. It rendered hundreds of thousands homeless and took the lives of 30,000 Sri Lankans. In the wake of that Tsunami Sri Lanka was to receive more goodwill and financial aid than it had ever done before. At that time Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse was still Prime Minister. It would only be in the election of November 2005 that he would take over as President. Overwhelmed by the tragedy and moved by the plight of its victims money poured in from every corner of the world. My investigations found Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister was siphoning off Tsunami funds into a private account maintained in his father’s name. I then wrote a series of investigative articles, which ultimately resulted in Mr Mahinda Rajapakse returning most of the money. By this time then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse had identified me as more than a nuisance in his climb to power. Articles 2-4 are part of that investigation.
(1)The Disappearing Tsunami Millions From The PM’s Fund
The disappearing tsunami millions from the PM’s fund
The Presidential directive which was flouted and Shiranthi Rajapakse’s letter to Hatton National Bank
By Sonali Samarasinghe
Published 03 July 2005: Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and a handful of select officials have siphoned off a colossal Rs. 82 million of monies given to the Prime Minister’s Fund as tsunami relief and reconstruction, into a private account called ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at the Standard Chartered Bank in direct violation of Presidential directives. The actions of the Prime Ministerial team may also raise serious issues, which may border on offences under the Public Property Act, given that the four signatories to the account are private persons not connected to the Prime Minister’s office.
Signatories to the account
The signatories to this account are Prof. Epasinghe, a long time friend of the Prime Minister, who does not work in the PM’s office but is paid a salary of Rs. 40,000 plus fuel expenses. Mahinda Gunawardena, another loyalist, Deputy Minister, Plantation Industries and brother of the Prime Minister, Chamal Rajapakse and Udaya Abeyratne of the Road Development Authority who is the chief accountant of the Prime Minister’s ‘Maga Neguma’ Project. The account named ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at the Rajagiriya branch of the Standard Chartered Bank bears A/C No. 01-1237322-01 and as at June 29, had an account balance of Rs. 103,094, 966 (over Rs. 103 million). The account is still receiving funds and recently a direct cash deposit of Rs. 54,200 was made.
If there was one time in the history of Sri Lanka that prompted worldwide sympathy and good will towards the nation it was the days after the tsunami. Apart from government to government pledges, private companies, the Sri Lankan diaspora, NGOs and foreign missions literally sent sacks of money to the country to meet the urgent needs of the tsunami affected.
Many of these donations made its way to Mahinda Rajapakse as prime minister of Sri Lanka. Certainly money was flowing in, and steadily. At the time no special accounts
were in existence and the Prime Minister was in control in the absence of the President who was still in London. For a Prime Ministerial team to then arbitrarily decide with no official record of the fact except a verbal assurance by the PM’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga that a large chunk of these moneys was given especially for the reconstruction of Hambantota raises serious issues of public accountability and transparency.
In any event all donations received by the Prime Minister or by the Prime Minister’s office were donations given to the country as a whole and not to Mahinda Rajapakse to nurse his own constituency for personal political gain to give a generous interpretation to what has taken place. The fact that the monies have not yet been used but kept in an account for future use – and this is admitted to by PM’s Secretary Weeratunga (see box) – makes the action even more heinous, considering the untold suffering that victims in temporary shelters are still going through.
The Sunday Leader learns that since the commencement of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account, 14 outgoing transactions, each of which was less than a million, have been made totaling a sum of Rs. 9 million. This means the account had over Rs. 112 million. That is Rs. 30 million more than what was initially deposited from the Prime Minister’s ‘Punarjeewana’ fund. However Prime Minister’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga says no money has been deposited to this account after the initial Rs. 82 million and no account movements have occurred. Remember, President Kumaratunga was in England when the tsunami struck and it was the Prime Minister who took over disaster management efforts. Indeed, during those heady post-tsunami days and after her hasty return to the country, President Kumaratunga was to scoff at Rajapakse’s inefficiency publicly and berate his one-man-show attempt privately.
Be that as it may, from December 26 onwards, monies received by the Prime Minister personally or by the Prime Minister’s office were deposited in the government account called ‘Secretary to the Prime Minister’ as there was no other account available in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
It is pertinent to note however that following the calamity there was no record to show the amount of money donated and the amount deposited. Simply put, due to various reasons – most of which were logistical – there was zero accountability. Sources at the Prime Minister’s office confirm that monies handed over in the presence of other officials at the office were however documented.
On her return from London, President Kumaratunga was quick to notify all ministries concerned that monies received for tsunami relief should be deposited into one account. Therefore, on December 29, 2004 by Presidential Secretariat Circular No. PA/272, President’s Secretary, W.J.S. Karunaratne sent out a directive to all secretaries of ministries and heads of institutions not scheduled under ministries. It said inter alia: “On the direction of the President, a special bank account has been opened at the head quarters branch of People’s Bank to accept cash donations for relief operations that are now in progress.
Name of Account: ‘President’s Fund for Disaster Relief’
Bank : People’s Bank – Head quarter’s branch
Account No. 204 100 190 136245
Type of account: Current account
Swift Code: PSBKLKLX
Sort cord: 204-7135
Online transfer: Facility not available
“You are kindly requested to bring this information to the notice of all your staff of your ministry / institution, and any other institutions coming under your ministry and the general public who wish to make donation in cash for this very worthy cause.”
Note this: “In the circumstances, you are kindly advised not to open any separate individual bank accounts to collect funds for relief operations.”
We do not doubt that the PM’s Secretary, Weeratunga would have received this circular. Notwithstanding, on December 31, 2004, two days after President Kumaratunga’s directive, Weeratunga opened an official account in the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund’ account No. 014100170136270 at the People’s Bank. The signatories to this account were Weeratunga, Additional Secretary Gamini Senarath, Senior Assistant Secretary Sunil Hewapathirana and Accountant S. Subasinghe.
Thereafter, on the same day a sum of Rs. 73,926,516.74 of tsunami relief monies received into the ‘Secretary to the Prime Minister’ government account from December 27, 2004 to December 31, 2004 were deposited into the newly opened Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana account. Other donations were also now being deposited to this account and as at June 09, its account balance was Rs. 2,628,821.90.
While strictly speaking the opening of this account was a violation of the President’s specific advice “not to open any separate individual accounts,” it is still an official government account with the signatories being officials of the Prime Minister’s office.
However, the Prime Minister and a select few of his officials including Weeratunga lost no time in also opening a separate private account called ‘Helping Hambantota’ at the Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya without even any proper documentation. A website was also launched calling the project the ‘Hambantota Tsunami Relief and Disaster Programme.’ (See box)
The project partners named are the government of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister’s office of Sri Lanka, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN agencies, international and national NGOs, the corporate sector, professional bodies, religious institutions and communities of those effected.
Whatever the site claims as the project’s partners, the board of directors of the project are in fact PM’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga , HNB Chairman, Rienzie Wijetilleke, Shasheendra Rajapakse (son of Chamal Rajapkse and nephew of the Prime Minister), Director, Road Development Authority (RDA), M. Mowjood and Accountant, RDA, Udaya Abeyratne. Its governing council consists of again Shasheendra Rajapakse, Lalith Weeratunga and Rienzie Wijetilleke.
The Prime Minister and Weeratunga also told the PM’s office staff that of the donations received by the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana fund, a certain sum was received specially for the development of Hambantota only as requested by the donors. These particular donations had been marked in the funds register by Weeratunga.
On December 27, both Prime Minister Rajapakse and Weeratunga verbally directed that Rs. 106,983,247.70 (over Rs. 106 million) be transferred to this private account. Later the amount to be transferred was changed to Rs. 82,958,247.70 (over Rs. 82 million). Accordingly on January 31, a People’s Bank cheque No. 179127 in the name of ‘The Manager, Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya, A/C No.01-1237322-01, Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme’ for the sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 signed by Accountant S. Subasinghe and Weeratunga was issued to facilitate the transfer.
However, this cheque was returned as the payee’s name was wrong and another People’s Bank cheque No. 179128 dated February 3 was issued for the same amount to be paid to ‘Helping Hambantota A/C No. 01-1237322-01.
On December 31, 2004, Prime Minister Rajapakse directed his office to send the remaining moneys in the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana fund to the National Fund for Disaster Relief, Central Bank A/C No. 4669. The relatively small sum of Rs. 28,363,135.04 donations received from December 27 2004 to January 5 was accordingly transferred by People’s Bank cheque No. 179126. That was to indicate to the President her directive was being complied with as regards the monies received by the PM’s fund.
Thereafter, as all good little boy scouts would do, the Prime Minister’s office kept sending, in comparatively small driblets, a percentage of the funds received by the prime minister’s office to the Central Bank National Relief Fund in keeping with the Presidential directive. For instance on February 8, a sum of Rs. 11,42,780 was sent by People’s Bank cheque No. 179129 and again Rs. 441,618 by cheque No. 947362. On March 16, a sum of Rs. 15,124,891.13 was sent to the Central Bank by People’s Bank cheque No. 179132. These monies were donations received between December 28, 2004 and February 15.
Meanwhile, for good measure, the Prime Minister’s office ran a full page advertisement in the state media on February 2, publishing a list of 55 donors and randomly dividing them into two sections. Twenty-two donors for Hambantota and 33 for Sri Lanka as a whole.
By a happy coincidence for the Prime Minister and his select team, those 22 donations were hefty ones amounting to over Rs. 82 million. Donations received to the National Fund though larger in number amounted to only a little over Rs. 28 million. Neither did the advertisement mention the private account ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at the Standard Chartered Bank but merely mentioned instead a generalised Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme.
Consider the following:
The donations arbitrarily and personally selected by Weeratunga as ‘Hambantota only’ donations were in fact received by Mahinda Rajapakse as Prime Minister for Sri Lanka and not as MP for Hambantota. The tsunami was a national disaster not an isolated calamity in the south. In any event the 22 donations identified by Weeratunga as aforesaid were made from December 27, 2004 to January 11. On December 27, 2004, one day after the disaster, no government fund had yet been set up. Neither had this private account called ‘Helping Hambantota.’
If the Prime Minister’s office says that some monies were given to be used in Hambantota only then as a government body this must be properly documented. There should be written indication of this by the donor. A arbitrary pencil mark by the PM’s Secretary is insufficient. These are monies belonging to the Sri Lankan public and not private funds.
No proper documentation
When the monies were transferred to the account, ‘Helping Hambantota’ was not a properly registered and/or constituted trust, partnership, company or NGO (see box). When the private account was set up at the Standard Chartered Bank it was done so without proper documentation and only on the verbal assurances of the Prime Minister’s office. The bank had not insisted on the proper documentation usually required to open a bank account of this nature. However, the identity cards of the aforesaid four signatories were perused and the account opened merely on the instructions of the PM’s office.
This account, which contains public money, is now in the hands of private individuals and has been moved away from the control of public officials. It is not subject to financial regulations and other governmental directives and circulars that govern public money. Furthermore, if this money is to be used for reconstruction, then proper tender procedures must be followed. Is this not a misappropriation of public property and a criminal breach of trust? But happily for the Prime Minister’s office, these government funds are now in a private account.
The very fact the Willie Gamage (see box) finds is necessary to hide the fact that Chamal Rajapakse is a signatory to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account and insists there are only three signatories shows that a game may be afoot. Even though Gamage states there is only a balance of Rs. 67 million, The Sunday Leader reliably learns that as at June 28, the balance was over Rs. 103 million.
By giving this exercise a veneer of legitimacy with a large newspaper advertisement, select officials of the Prime Minister’s office have opened this private account to direct transfers of moneys. Certainly the account has swelled considerably since February this year. As at June 28, its balance was already over Rs. 103 million.
The Rs. 82 million question
The Rs. 82 million question is also this – If the money was indeed for tsunami relief and reconstruction of Hambantota, why pray, is it, that six months after the tsunami, when victims are still languishing in tents and makeshift structures, has the money not been used? Is it being saved for some other purpose over which the government has no control since it is managed by private individuals?
It is reliably learnt that the money has now been deposited into a call deposit to generate interest. While this money purportedly to help tsunami victims is generating interest, thousands of victims are still living in harsh conditions.
Surely politicians who receive donations on behalf of the state as a whole after a national disaster cannot set up private accounts for various districts such as ‘Helping Galle’ or ‘Helping Batticaloa’ depending on their area of interest for personal or political gain? And who knows at the end of the day where this money will end up?
If, for example, Rajapakse is no longer Prime Minister tomorrow, the state will have no control over this money and the private individuals controlling it can for all intents and purposes use it to buy houses in the Bahamas.
|Case of the missing moneyThat money was lying around the Rajapakse residence was evident. Come February this year the Rajapakse family was in a dither. Rs. 400,000 had gone missing from the premises and the alleged prime suspect was a Tamil servant woman called Chandra who had recently left the home not only in a huff due to a matter of the heart involving another Prime Ministerial minor employee but also with a pocket stuffed with Rs. 400,000 allegedly stolen from the Prime Ministerial residence. Having found out about the alleged theft, Rajapakse’s wife Shiranthi lost no time in writing a letter marked ‘Urgent’ dated February 3, to the manager, Hatton National Bank in Colombo 8, requesting him to freeze the account of the servant woman as a police investigation had already commenced. (See box) On the strength of this letter when the servant woman went to the bank to withdraw a small amount, the bank informed the police and she was arrested. However, the Prime Minister intervened and she was released before the incident about the money could leak out to the press. The only salient question here in the public interest is this. Why would Rs. 400,000 be lying around in the Prime Minister’s home in the first place? And why was the police investigation subsequently dropped?* * *PM’s Secretary responds…Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lalith Weeratunga admitted that no monies from the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund had been used as yet. When asked why that was the case even six months after the tsunami, he said many donors had come to construct houses and give relief and thus it was not necessary. He also said this money may be used at a later date for community centres and infrastructure development. He revealed the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account had approximately Rs. 80 million in it and also stated no more monies had been sent to it. Weeratunga also said in deference to donors wishes they had to separate the moneys as donors approached them wanting to help Hambantota specifically and / or to help Ampara or another area specifically. When asked whether separate accounts were also opened for Ampara and other areas he stated the PM’s office did not receive such donations as donors were aware of the Prime Minister’s connection to Hambantota.* * *Helping Hambantota, PM’s office styleThe Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme has launched an impressive website – www.helphambantota.org. The objective of the project is stated as follows: “To bring together and combine the strengths of the government, the corporate sector, religious institutions, the UN community, international and national NGOs, professional bodies and the communities of those affected in bringing relief to the people of the district and in bringing about sustained development in the area. To facilitate, support and synergise the rehabilitation plans for the district, and to coordinate with relevant state agencies in order to expedite relief and development work.” What may well distress bona fide donors is also this. The site names as its many grandiose rebuilding projects, the following: Andaragasyaya Housing Project, ASPIC Village Housing Project, Cine Oska Village Housing Project, Haritha Housing Project, Helping House Housing Project, Kelani Temple Houses Housing Project, Kirindagama Housing Project, Obesekaralabima Walloya Housing Project, Porondugama Red Cross Housing Project, Samadigama Housing Project, Siribopura Housing project, Temp. Houses Kirindagama Housing Project and Tissapura Housing Project. Each is accompanied by pictures of houses under construction. However, Weeratunga told The Sunday Leader that none of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ funds had been used and that donors and aid agencies were building houses and therefore the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project was keeping the money for possible infrastructure development at a later date. This brings the credibility of this website into serious doubt. If the website is already claiming to have completed so many projects and even shows pictures of these ongoing projects, the Prime Minister’s office may be guilty of duping donors into sending money into an account that does not do anything. However, the website very passionately calls for donors to ‘Help Hambantota NOW.’ The site invites donors to feel free to write immediately and gives the following details. Programme name: Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme; Address: Prime Minister’s office, Temple Trees, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka; Telephone: +94 11 2 32 14 06; Fax: +94 11 2 2 54 29 18; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, and gives the account details for money transfer as ‘Helping Hambantota’ A/C No.01-1237322-01; Bank: Standard Charted Bank, Sri Lanka; Branch: Rajagiriya; Swift Code: SCBLLKLX. It also states that online donation facilities via Visa or Master would be available soon.* * *Gamage gives PM a helping handSenior Advisor to the Prime Minister and Desk Officer for ‘Helping Hambantota.’ Willie Gamage told The Sunday Leader that ‘Helping Hambantota’ was a temporary programme to handle tsunami relief and was a fund management programme. On asked whether it has been registered Gamage replied in the negative. Excerpts of the interview follow: Q: Is it part of the PM’s office? A: Not really but it is supported by the PM’s office. It is a temporary programme to manage funds earmarked for Hambantota. (He also stated that except for Lalith Weeratunga and Shasheendra Rajapakse all other members of the governing council of this programme were private members.) Q: Who are the signatories? A: Udaya Abeyratne is an accountant, Prof. Epasinghe is from the academic field and M. Gunawardena is a private person. Q: Only three signatories? A: Yes. (Of the Rs. 82 million deposited in the account Gamage said that approximately Rs. 15 million has been spent on kitchen utensils, construction of 15 permanent houses and incidental expenses such as project surveys.) Q: Has any more money been put to the account? A: No. As at June 15, we have spent Rs. 15 million. Q: What is the balance now? A: The balance is Rs. 67 million. Q: When was this account started? A: Early January, I think. Q: Were you not in violation of the Presidential directive not to maintain separate accounts issued on December 29, 2004? A: We were not in violation. Anyway, direct those questions to the secretary. Q: You say these were monies earmarked for Hambantota. Who earmarked them, was it the donors and was it in writing? A: It was in writing. For instance, Plan International was one. I am not authorised to give you the other donors. Q: But you took out a full page advertisement in the state media on February 2, where you listed 22 donors. The list names the Korean Ambassador. Did he give you a request in writing? A: Yes Q: Could you give me some letters of donors in the list who have requested that their monies go to Hambantota? A: Those are with the secretary but even I may be able to find one or two letters. I’m out of office, I can give them to you on Monday.* * *Accountant refuses to commentThe Sunday Leader contacted Chief Accountant, Prime Minister’s office, S.Subasinghe for his comments on the transfer of over Rs. 82 million from the Prime Minister’s fund to a private account. Subasinghe declined to comment stating he was a public official and that all questions should be directed to Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lalith Weeratunga.|
(2) Cabinet note and documents that damn PM’s defence
The Rs. 82 million cheque sent on January 31 t a private account before the cabinet note, Cheque for Rs. 28 million sent to Central Bank, Cheque for Rs. 82 million sent to private bank account, Voucher transferring funds from PM’s Fund to the Central bank as per the President’s directive, The minute detailing the PM’s instructions to transfer the money to the private account, Voucher transferring funds from the PM’s Fund to the private account, Rajapakse’s cabinet note and Mahinda Rajapakse are in the picture
By Sonali Samarasinghe
PUBLISHED 10 JULY 2005: Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s attempt to defend the siphoning off of a colossal Rs. 82,958,247.70 of tsunami funds into a private account has proved futile, with the defense turning out to merely exacerbate the offence.
Last week The Sunday Leader exclusively broke the story of how Prime Minister Rajapakse and a coterie of select officials in the Prime Minister’s office transferred over Rs. 82 million of tsunami donations from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund specially set up to collect tsunami relief into a private account controlled by private signatories, including his brother Chamal, held at the Standard Chartered Bank.
Consequently, Prime Minister Rajapakse publicly took up the position that he had in fact presented to cabinet a note on February 2 regarding the deposit of these funds before the account was opened and had also published the names of the donors in several English and Sinhala newspapers.
However, a perusal of the cabinet note and several documents in the possession of this newspaper reveal that the Prime Minister has not only misled cabinet but has also been involved in an exercise of subterfuge, as it becomes abundantly clear that he personally transferred these tsunami funds into a private account at a private bank even before he presented the cabinet note on the matter.
This fact is further revealed in a minute signed by the Chief Accountant, Prime Minister’s Office, S.A.N.R. Subasinghe, a voucher approved by Prime Minister’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga and the very cheque that was issued in order to make this transfer. (Documents reproduced elsewhere on this page)
Furthermore, the voucher written by Subasinghe and approved by Weeratunga clearly states that the funds in question were in fact transferred from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund – an official account controlled by government financial regulations – into the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account. They are not, as the Prime Minister attempts to assert, donations that came in especially for Hambantota and therefore needed a separate account. (See box)
Meanwhile, a top Finance Ministry official confirmed to The Sunday Leader that details of this account did not reach the Ministry, no approval was given to establish this account, it has been set up outside government regulations and is not under its control.
Master of his trade
Smoke screens and red herrings, artifice and stratagem are familiar stuff to politicians and Prime Minister Rajapakse is often considered a master of his trade. Alas, however, this time Rajapakse’s cabinet note cover up is in fact rather décolleté.
Another vital distinction has to be made at the outset. The significant difference between a cabinet note and a cabinet memorandum. A note is merely dissemination of information and has no approval or consent from other members of the cabinet. A memorandum is different. It is discussed, approval is sort for and granted after consideration and the contents thereof ratified within two weeks. It then becomes a cabinet approved decision.
Cabinet meets every Wednesday. This note was presented to cabinet on Wednesday, February 2. Cabinet would meet again only on February 9 and then again on February 16. Make no mistake. There was no approval sought and none was given. This was only a cabinet note.
Meanwhile, the opposition is likely to raise the issue, accusing the Prime Minister of not only misleading cabinet but also parliament following the tabling of an adjournment motion on July 7 by UNP MP, John Amaratunge and seconded by Dayasiri Wijesekera.
Consider the PM’s defence:
The Prime Minister’s position on the disappearing tsunami funds is this. That he presented a cabinet note on the subject of disbursement of tsunami funds on February 2. This was a Wednesday and the cabinet secretary received it also on the same day. The PM says this account is not a secret account and neither is it his private account.
He also states he presented to cabinet details of tsunami relief funds received by the Prime Minister’s Office. The cabinet had taken cognizance of the fact that this was published in the newspapers and that all funds had been duly accounted for. The next day cabinet had accepted this position. He also states he only started this account after first informing cabinet. (See box for the PM’s position)
Now consider the facts:
Firstly the Prime Minister says the account maintained at the Standard Chartered Bank is neither secret nor private.
Wiser men may think otherwise. The four signatories to this account are private persons, namely, Prof. Epasinghe – a long time friend of the Prime Minister, Mahinda Gunawardena – a loyalist, Chamal Rajapakse – brother of the Prime Minister and Udaya Abeyratne – chief accountant, Road Development Authority.
The account, named ‘Helping Hambantota’ is maintained at a private bank – Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya Branch – and bears account number 01-1237322-01. As at June 29 it had an account balance of Rs. 103,094,966. But more on what happened to the money later.
This account and the monies in it are as private as a shy curate’s underwear and we will tell you why. The moment this large amount of public money was transferred into the Standard Chartered Bank account, the government lost control of it. The money was now not subject to financial regulations and in the confusion that followed the disaster, once spirited away it was soon to be forgotten.
Remember this. The money was donated to the nation, not to the Prime Minister in his private capacity as Mahinda Rajapakse of Hambantota. There are procedures in place, quite rightly, to decide how donations should be disbursed and spent or where they should be deposited.
One thing is certain – all donations must be subject to government procedures. But with one stroke of a pen on January 27, the Prime Minister transferred this astronomical sum of money out of government control and into private hands, all the time publishing accuracy-challenged advertisements in a number of newspapers to blow smoke screens around what had in fact happened.
Secondly, the Prime Minister asserts the account is not secret. But in the advertisements placed – and we refer particularly to The Daily News publication of February 2 to which the Prime Minister himself alludes in his public defense of the issue – the advertisement does not mention the private account ‘Helping Hambantota’ maintained at Standard Chartered Bank . It merely mentions a generalised Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme.
In the cabinet note he presented on the same day (reproduced elsewhere on this page) again he appears to be misleading cabinet by being economical with the truth. The cabinet note deals with monies received by the Prime Minister’s Office up to January 2.
It states a sum of Rs. 113,262,539.89 by international money transfers and cheques was received by the Prime Minister’s Office. It also gives sketchy details of a sum of foreign currency that was received and states that donations received through the website, www.emerge-ncydonations.gov.lk, deposited in the Sampath Bank account amounted to Rs. 5,438,299.
How the money was disbursed
The cabinet note then sets out how the Rs. 113 million stated above was disbursed.
National Disaster Relief Fund (Central Bank A/C 4669) – Rs. 28,363,135.04.
On account of the special requests of the donors the money deposited in the Hambantota Disaster Relief Fund – Rs. 82,958,247.70.
Funds allocated to be sent to the National Disaster Relief Fund (Central Bank A/c 4669) – Rs. 1,941,157,15.
This amounts to a total of Rs. 113,262,539.
The note states all these monies have been duly accounted for and Mahinda Rajapakse signs the note.
Now let’s look at the cabinet note.
What strikes one immediately is that the Prime Minister is being very diligent when giving details of the other accounts but is reticent in even providing the most basic details about the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account. While generous with information about the Central Bank account numbers, he does not reveal to cabinet that the lion’s share is really going into a private account.
Indeed he does not mention anything except that it is going into a Hambantota relief fund. No mention of the fact that it is going into a private bank and no mention of the account number as with the other monies. This appears to be selective secrecy.
Out of government control
Even if donors requested these moneys be used for Hambantota, it must necessarily be done through the proper financial channels and be under the control of the government. It cannot be siphoned off and taken out of the purview and umbrella of government control.
Nor does the Prime Minister think it fit to set down details of the donors who gave these monies supposedly for Hambantota. Last week when questioned by The Sunday Leader, Desk Officer, Hambantota Fund and Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister, Willie Gamage stated that donors had given this request in writing. He stated he may be able to find one or two of these written requests. We wait with bated breath.
Certainly the newspaper publications list out a number of donors as having requested that their money only go to Hambantota. Among them the Ambassador, Korean Embassy, Lanka Bell (Pvt) Ltd., Keangnam Enterprises Ltd., Unilever Sri Lanka Ltd. and Samsung Networks among 22 others. But this is neither here nor there.
What is on the button is the lack of accountability by the Prime Minister with regard to Rs. 82 million of the nation’s funds. Funds not yet utilised while tsunami victims all over Sri Lanka are still living in makeshift camps.
Is it the Prime Minister’s position that if he is given a donation as prime minister of Sri Lanka of a sum of Rs. 100 million with a special request that he build a house in London with it, he would be able to do that with impunity? Obviously not. Same principle. Nor does publicising a wrong in a newspaper make it magically right.
Even heads of state who receive gifts by visiting dignitaries cannot treat these gifts as their own. They belong to the state and are under the control of the state. Likewise with funds received after the tsunami.
Thirdly, the Prime Minister is adamant these were funds specifically given for Hambantota. Let us take the Prime Minister’s own documents on the issue.
The Prime Minister’s Office voucher (reproduced elsewhere on this page) dated January 26, clearly states a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 is payable to ‘The Manager Standard Chartered Bank, Rajagiriya Branch – A/C No. 01-1237322-01 Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief and Development Programme.’
Note this well. In the description column of the voucher it states thus: ‘Donations received for the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund being deposited into the Hambantota Tsunami Relief Fund.’ This voucher was approved and signed by Prime Minister’s Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga. If there was any discrepancy in the description of what the funds were for, he could have changed it. He did not do so. Also note the January 26 date. That is well before the February 2 cabinet memo.
Furthermore, smaller amounts of money from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund that were in fact duly transferred to the Central Bank National Relief Fund attracted similar wording in vouchers relating to them. For instance, on March 14, a voucher was prepared for Rs. 15,124,891.13 payable to the National Fund For Disaster Relief, Central Bank and the description on the voucher was identical as above except for the name of the receiving bank and account.
If, as the Prime Minister states, there was a difference in the Rs. 83 million, why did the sum also attract the identical voucher description?
Now let us take the minute made on January 27 by Chief Accountant, Prime Minister’s Office, S.A.N.R. Subasinghe. It states thus:
“The donors have made a request to the Prime Minister that of the funds received into the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund, a certain amount is allocated only for the development of Hambantota. The Secretary to the Prime Minister has indicated what these funds are in the Funds Register.
Therefore, on the verbal instructions of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Secretary, I seek approval to transfer a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund into the Hambantota Relief Fund” (see box). Secretary Lalith Weeratunga gave signed approval for this transfer on January 27.
Another minute on the same page rather forlornly states:
“While a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 from the funds received by the PM’s Punarajeewana Fund has been transferred to the Hambantota Development Fund, approval is sought to deposit the balance available (Rs. 28,363,135.04) in the National Disaster Fund at the Central Bank.” Again Weeratunga has given signed approval.
It appears then that Prime Minister Rajapakse – a man known for his frugality – has been equally frugal with the truth. His own office documentation contradicts his explanation, and casts doubts on the contents of his cabinet note. It is clear from these documents that funds from the official Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund were in fact siphoned off without any cabinet approval to a private account.
Fourthly, the Prime Minister states the said Standard Chartered Bank account was opened only after cabinet approval was granted. We have already established there was no cabinet approval as this was only an information note with a veneer of legitimacy due to a lack of information on the crucial said account.
Now consider the following dates. Before that, recall that the cabinet note was presented on February 2.
January 11: The private account ‘Helping Hambantota’ A/C No.01-1237322-01 at Standard Chartered Bank with four private signatories unrelated to the Prime Minister’s Office was opened under a trust set up in the name of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s father, D.A. Rajapakse. The Rs. 83 million that was transferred from tsunami funds, according to documents from the Prime Ministers Office, were those received from donors between December 27, 2004 and January 11, this year.
January 26: A voucher was presented and approved by Secretary Weeratunga for the Rs. 83 million to be transferred to this private Standard Chartered Bank account.
January 27: A voucher was prepared to transfer the remainder Rs. 28 million in the PM’s Punarjeewana Fund into the Official Central Bank Disaster Relief Fund.
As The Sunday Leader revealed last week, the decision was to transfer Rs. 106,983,247.70 at first but this was suddenly changed. The gesture was no doubt prudent as in that case only a mere pittance of not even Rs. 7 million would have reached government coffers. This may have raised too many eyebrows too soon. (See minute reproduced elsewhere on this page)
The Prime Minister himself in his cabinet note states his office up to January 2 received a sum of Rs. 113,262,539.89.
January 31: A cheque was issued for the transfer of Rs. 83 million into the Standard Chartered Bank A/C No. 01-12373-22-01 while on the same day another cheque was made out for the remainder of Rs. 28 million into the Central Bank Disaster Relief Fund. However, Standard Chartered Bank returned the cheque stating the payee name was wrong.
February 3: A fresh cheque with the correct payee name of ‘Helping Hambantota’ was issued and sent to the bank.
The Prime Minister appears to be master of superficial spin for long before the cabinet note was presented to cabinet, the said account had been opened and the money deposited.
Therefore, has the Prime Minister not mislead cabinet by presenting a note of deliberate insipidity on February 2 when his own office documentation and bank details show that he had every intention of sending this money out into a private account outside the control of the government of Sri Lanka?
Is Rajapakse, who now aspires to be the president of this country, only to be the president of Hambantota? Certainly in his capacity as Prime Minister, he seems to have confined himself to his own constituency.
That is if one is to give a generous interpretation to the establishment of the account notwithstanding the fact these monies were not used for the benefit of the tsunami victims even six months after the disaster.
Fifthly, the Prime Minister states he has travelled to Batticaloa, Ampara, Point Pedro and Jaffna after the disaster. Whatever his own views on the matter, one presumes that he was appointed Prime Minister of the nation as a whole. He may surely have received monies where donors expressed some interest in other areas of the country. Did he set up separate accounts for these areas too? Such as, for instance, ‘Helping Ampara,’ ‘Helping Batticaloa’ and ‘Helping Jaffna.’
It sounds ridiculous, because it is ridiculous. This is akin to President Kumaratunga, (not that we say she has) deciding to open up separate accounts for every district if a donor at the recently concluded donor forum held in Kandy made a comment in passing that they would like this money to be used for a particular purpose or area.
Speaking of the Head of State, Kumaratunga’s silence on this issue is deafening. It is up to her to call for a full inquiry. In fact it is she who publicly announced that not even five cents of aid had been received by the country. The Treasury too made no bones about how little had arrived.
The Prime Minister cannot absolve himself by stating that newspaper advertisements were placed. Sherlock Holmes was once to observe in cracking the case of the Naval Treaty that it was often the obvious that goes unnoticed. And there is a quiet subtlety in publicising half-truths in a cavalier manner in order to cover up the big lie.
The Prime Minister’s position
The Prime Minister’s position on the disappearing tsunami funds is this. He says this account is not a secret account and neither is it his private account. He also states he presented to cabinet details of tsunami relief funds received by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Cabinet had taken cognizance of the fact this was published in the newspapers and that all funds had been duly accounted for. The next day cabinet had accepted this position. Therefore, he says he only started this account after first informing cabinet.
He also says he informed cabinet in the note that on account of donors’ special requests he deposited monies in a separate Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund. He states thus: “When the donors requested him to use these monies for Hambantota I gave these monies to the Secretary for the Prime Minister. Normally the money went into the general Prime Minister’s account. It is because of donor requests that I had to open this separate account. What donations I received as Prime Minister generally, I deposited into the National Disaster Relief Fund at the Central Bank 4669. On the same day I presented the cabinet note on February 2, I also published these facts in the newspapers. I wish to state that under the ‘Helping Hambantota’ scheme even Sajith Premadasa has signed agreements to build houses. So this is not an account opened for me to secretly squander.
“We have dedicated ourselves on behalf of those victims of the disaster. We have done our maximum. I am not confined only to Hambantota. I went to Batticaloa and Ampara Districts as well. I went to Jaffna with former Minister Anura Dissanayake and Wimal Weerawansa. We went to Velvetithurai and to Point Pedro. We went to Trincomalee. We were attacked. Those are not problems. But we will not take advantage of people’s disaster. I say this has been done very openly and the programme has gone to cabinet and has been approved by cabinet. The beauty of it is this. I am also asked why I have not spent this money. On the other hand, questions are raised in other instances when money comes in, that it was spent on this and that or it was stolen. I think this has been done solely to throw mud at me. I am thankful to the newspapers for bringing this out so I can explain it. I will be more thankful if they also said I had got cabinet approval,” he said.
Ins and outs of the pvt. account
The ‘Helping Hambantota’ bank account at Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya branch bears A/C No. 01-1237322-01.
On July 1, no sooner the Prime Minister’s Office became aware this newspaper had the issue under investigation, a sum of Rs. 82,958,250 was transferred into a call deposit at the same bank at a low interest rate of four percent whereas the government interest rate is 8-9 percent. Therefore, by keeping these public funds in a private account, the Prime Minister is also losing interest which belongs to the public of this country.
Recent transactions are as follows:
January 12: Rs. 3 million was transferred to this account from the Bank of Ceylon Parliament Branch.
January 20: KIA Motors deposited Rs. 8,777,549 into the account.
March 21: Rs. 3 million was withdrawn from the account.
April 27: Rs. 2 million was withdrawn from the account.
May 20: Rs. 1.5 million was paid to W.W. Gamage.
Willie Gamage is senior advisor to the PM and desk officer for the ‘Helping Hambantota’ programme, which he himself told The Sunday Leader was a temporary programme to handle tsunami relief funds.
The balance in the account at the time of going to print was Rs. 19,125,056.00.
(3) Funds transferred in violation of cabinet decision
Mahinda has misled cabinet and parliament
Cabinet fixes PM on tsunami scam
By Sonali Samarasinghe
PUBLISHED 17 JULY 2005:Evidence has surfaced that the cabinet of ministers had rejected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s cabinet note on the disbursement of tsunami funds contrary to claims he made that cabinet approval was obtained.
Rajapakse, on July 5 answering charges he had siphoned off over Rs. 82 million of tsunami funds received by the Prime Minister’s Office into a private account at Standard Chartered Bank, claimed he had received cabinet approval to do so on the basis of a cabinet note submitted by him on February 2.
The minutes of the cabinet meeting of February 10 revealed that cabinet, having taken into consideration the Prime Minister’s cabinet note had unanimously agreed that all tsunami funds received both locally and internationally should be deposited in the official Disaster Relief Fund established at the Central Bank.
This was in keeping with the circular issued by the President through Secretary, W.J.S. Karunaratne on December 29, 2004 that no separate account for tsunami funds was to be established.
The cabinet decision rejecting the Prime Minister’s cabinet note on the issue had been communicated in writing to the Prime Minister’s Secretary for action by Cabinet Secretary, D. Wijesinghe and Additional Secretary, P. Hapangama on February 17. Copies were also sent to the President’s Secretary, Finance and Planning Ministry Secretary and to the Auditor General.
The Prime Minister, who received large sums of money following the December 26 tsunami disaster, is accused of opening an account named ‘Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund’ on December 31, 2004 at the People’s Bank and depositing over Rs. 73 million in contravention of a Presidential directive dated December 29, 2004 not to open any separate bank accounts but to credit all monies received to the President’s Fund for Disaster Relief, maintained at the Central Bank.
The Prime Minister and Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga had subsequently directed Accountant S.A.N.R. Subasinghe to transfer Rs. 82,958,247.70 to a private account established at the Standard Chartered Bank in Rajagiriya on January 29 this year, under the name ‘Helping Hambantota.’
The original cheque dated January 31 was returned due to a wrong payee name and a fresh cheque dated February 3 signed by Weeratunga and Subasinghe was issued with the amended payee name ‘Helping Hambantota’ A/C No. 011-237322-01.
The signatories to the private account included Prime Minister Rajapakse’s brother Chamal Rajapakse, a close associate, Mahinda Gunawardena and another confidant Professor Epasinghe.
Following The Sunday Leader exposing details of the private bank account, the Prime Minister informed parliament on July 5 that he submitted a cabinet note and had obtained approval. However, even in that cabinet note there was no disclosure of the private account that was established at Standard Chartered Bank or the transfer of monies to it from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund.
The Prime Minister’s cabinet note was dated February 2, while the private account was opened on January 11, and the first cheque deposited on January 31.
The cabinet rejected Prime Minister Rajapakse’s note on February 10, and communicated the decision in writing on February 17 by circular number AMP/05/0155/002/002.
It is now revealed that despite the cabinet decision on February 10, the large sum of tsunami funds continued to remain in the private account outside the control of government and state financial regulations. On July 1 these monies were transferred into a call deposit at the same Standard Chartered Bank at Rajagiriya on a fixed interest rate.
The cabinet decision communicated to the Prime Minister’s Secretary on February 17, specifically said action should be taken in terms of the February 10 decision to transfer all monies received by the Prime Minister to the Disaster Relief Fund at the Central Bank.
However, the Prime Minister and his officials did not implement this decision but instead transferred the monies at the Standard Chartered Bank to a call deposit in the same bank.
The cabinet circular in Sinhala dated February 17 states a decision taken at the cabinet meeting of February 10 is attached for necessary action.
It then goes on to set out specifically item (c) 40 in the cabinet agenda stating that cabinet has take due cognizance of the Prime Minister’s cabinet note dated February 2 number 05/0155/002/002 titled ‘Description of tsunami relief funds at the Prime Minister’s Office,’ which says that details of all donations have been published in the newspapers and that all donations have been duly deposited into accounts.
The cabinet of ministers unanimously agreed that all tsunami funds received locally and internationally should be deposited in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the minutes also state. The cabinet circular calls for the action of the Prime Minister’s Secretary on this matter.
(4) For PM, charity begins at home
By Sonali Samarasinghe
Published 24 July 2005 : More damning facts have come to light on Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s private account into which he siphoned off under a thick mantle of secrecy, an astronomical sum of over Rs. 82 million of funds donated for the tsunami victims in the aftermath of the disaster.
It is now revealed that the address of the Helping Hambantota account given to the Standard Chartered Bank when it was originally opened was No.166/A, Pangiriwatte Road, Mirihana, Nugegoda.
This is the residential address of the Prime Minister’s sister, Gandhini. Pangiriwatte Road is dotted all over with the residential abodes of the Rajapakse family. While there is no offence in the Rajapakse clan wanting to form a Pangiriwatte click, certainly there is an offence in giving the private address of his sister for a fund into which the Prime Minister had stashed away public monies. Mind you a private account of which the Prime Minister’s brother Chamal including three other close confidants, were made signatories.
Meanwhile President Chandrika Kumaratunga last Wednesday summoned Prime Minister’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, directing him to bring her all the files pertaining to the account. Following a scrutiny of the files, she summoned Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and informed him that an inquiry must proceed on the matter.
On Friday the CID went into Temple Trees to commence investigations on the Helping Hambantota bank account scam. Secretary to the Prime Minister Lalith Weeratunga was quizzed by the CID officials in the morning and asked to produce all files pertaining to the account. Accountant S.A.N.R. Subasinghe was questioned that evening.
Consider the extent of fault. Not only does the Premier illegally transfer large sums of public money into a private account, but also gives the account the residential address of his sister and makes his brother a signatory to it.
Note this. Chamal Rajapakse is also the deputy minister for plantation industries. By making himself a party to the Helping Hambantota account he positions himself in a conflict of interest situation.
Article 91(1)(e) of the Constitution states that no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of parliament if he has any interest in a contract made by or on behalf of the state or a public corporation as parliament shall prescribe by law.
Not above the law
Some years ago a judgment was made against Rajitha Senaratne, MP under this same provision for his involvement in a dental supplies contract. Chamal Rajapakse as a deputy minister in this government is not above the law.
The Prime Minister’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga himself earlier told The Sunday Leader that the monies may be
used for infrastructure development of Hambantota at a later date. Construction and development would require contractual dealings that may be prohibited by law.
Furthermore if the Helping Hambantota account was an official account of the Prime Minister’s Office then why was it that the Prime Ministerial Secretary was not appointed as a signatory to the account? The Secretary is by law also the chief accounting officer.
In fact by contrast the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund was opened by his office on December 31, 2004. This fund was opened at the People’s Bank and the signatories are all public officials attached to the Prime Minister’s office. It is from this account which in any event went against the Presidential directive of December 29, 2004 not to open any accounts at all but deposit monies in a National Disaster Relief Fund, that the PM siphoned off the said monies.
The Prime Minister, to give the fund a veneer of legitimacy, also appointed a board of directors which includes his nephew Shasheendra Rajapakse. The others are Secretary to the PM, Lalith Weeratunga, Chairman HNB, Rienzie Wijetilleke, Director/Road Development Authority (RDA), M. Mowjood and Accountant, RDA, Udaya Abeyratne.
The question is this. Under what law or authority was the board set up since no legal documentation existed either in the form of a certificate of incorporation of a company and a subsequent resolution, trust deed etc.
The Annual Report 2001 of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka gives banks guidelines on customer due diligence and
‘know your customer’ procedures. It advises all licensed, commercial banks and specialised banks to follow strict procedures in order to prevent the unchecked use of the financial system for money laundering and transactions related to terrorism and subversive activities.
The report states the bank should insist on a certificate of incorporation, memorandum and articles of association, a partnership agreement, to establish the legal status of the customer. The documents must also include a resolution to open the account by the directors.
Meanwhile, despite the Prime Minister’s protests that the monies were specifically handed over by the donors for Hambantota, large donors like Unilever who gave a colossal sum of Rs. 25 million have denied the prime minister’s claims in writing and have instead stated that the monies were given for the National Disaster Fund and not for a particular area.
Another donor, Tania Polonowita of Gemunu Mawatha, Subathipura, Battaramulla transferred a sum of Rs. 1 million into the Helping Hambantota account at the STB from an account maintained at Pan Asia Bank called the Sri Lanka Tsunami Relief Fund.
Polonowita subsequently told The Sunday Leader that she transferred Rs.1 million into the Helping Hambantota Fund for bona fide housing projects in the Hambantota area but was unaware at the time it was a private account and not under government control.
Last week The Sunday Leader exclusively reported that the Prime Minister’s Cabinet note regarding the accounts dated February 2, 2005 had been unanimously rejected by cabinet on February 10 and communicated in writing to the Prime Minister’s Secretary for appropriate action on February 17.
Today The Sunday Leader looks at the legal aspects of this astonishing case that has plunged a nation already reeling from a natural disaster into an abyss of desperation.
Chapter XVII of the Constitution deals with finance matters. Article 148 states that parliament shall have full control of public finance. Under the constitution two funds could be maintained.
a. The Consolidated Fund
b. The Contingencies Fund
Article 149(1) states that public funds not allocated by law to any specific purpose shall form one consolidated fund
into which shall be paid the produce of all taxes, imposts, rates and duties and all other revenues.
According to Article 150 (1), neither can any sum be withdrawn from this account except under the authority of a warrant under the hand of the minister in charge of the subject of finance.
Article 151(1) provides for the Contingencies Fund, which parliament may create for the purpose of providing for urgent and unforeseen expenditure.
However withdrawals from this fund is quite a process. The finance minister if satisfied that there is need for any such expenditure and that no provision for such expenditure exists may with the consent of the president, authorise an advance from this fund.
Apart for the above two funds, others may exist only if allocated by law under special acts for special purposes.
Thus there is a President’s Fund into which the Development Lottery monies are deposited for example. This fund is a special fund from which withdrawals are made for scholarships, medical operations etc. Likewise there could be a Prime Minister’s Fund. But these have to be constituted by law, by a special act.
The Finance Act
Part IV of the Act No 38 of 1971 deals with the establishment of special funds to receive voluntary contributions in money made to the government for charitable purposes.
Section 25(1) states that any voluntary contribution made to the government for a special purpose may be held in deposit in one or more accounts in the General Treasury or in any such kachcheri in the island as may be determined by the minister of finance. In any event Section 26 provides that payments from such account may be made by the deputy secretary Treasury subject to the control of the minister of finance.
Sources at the Finance Ministry have confirmed to The Sunday Leader that no approvals warrants or endorsements of any kind have been made by the Ministry on the Helping Hambantota Fund which was rejected by cabinet in any event.
Let’s look at Section 870 on the subject of State Gifts. It clearly states that gifts received by a minister, member of parliament or a public officer, from a head or representative of a foreign state, should be regarded as received by him solely in his capacity as a representative of the Government of Sri Lanka. The disposal of such a gift attracts a number of checks and balances.
Firstly, the gift must be reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If the recipient feels he received the gift in his personal rather than official capacity he should present his case in writing to the Foreign Ministry. All gifts must in any event be valued by the director general of customs. Gifts valued at Rs. 150 or less should be returned to the recipient while the recipient will have the option to purchase the gift if valued over Rs. 150 at the assessed price. If not the gift should be transferred to the National Museum.
This is the hard road public officials and politicians have to tread under the financial regulations even with regard to gifts. A road that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, by his ingenuity and prestidigitation has with regard to donations, transformed into a cakewalk.
Gifts of money
Take a hard look at this. F.R. 170(2) deals with Gifts of Money. The importance of this section warrants that it is reproduced in full.
“When a department receives gifts of money from members of the public with requests that the gifts should be used for specific purposes, the amount received should be temporarily held in a deposit account and the donors informed politely, under registered cover, that the proposed expenditure can be incurred only with parliamentary approval, and that therefore no assurance can be given that their proposals will ultimately be implemented.
They should be made aware that if the donations are accepted, they have to be credited to the revenue, and no refund could be made thereafter, even if the parliament disapproves the proposals.”
If the donors are agreeable to the conditions, the amounts would be credited to the revenue or otherwise refunded to them. If no replies are received by the donors reminders must be sent stating that if there is no reply within two weeks the money will be accepted into revenue.
F.R.170(b) states that “when gifts of money are credited to revenue in terms of (a) above, provisions may be made in the draft estimates of the following Financial Year for implementing the specific proposals for which the donations were received subject to approval.
(c ) Gifts of Money received, other than for a specific purpose, should be credited to revenue.
The section also sets out how monies credited to revenue should be classified and in F.R.170(e) states that the following particulars (1) The name and address of the donor, (2) Amount of gifts, (3) Date of credit to revenue, (4) Purpose if any, for which it is donated, and (5) If donated for a specific purpose, which action has been taken, should be notified to the director general, Department of State Accounts, Treasury, without delay so that he could include same in the statement relating to gift of money received during the financial year which is published along with annual accounts.
F.R. 170 is abundantly clear. Even if a donor requests that a donation should be used for a specific purpose this cannot be done and there is provision to inform the donor of the financial regulations on this issue. Instead all monies must go into either the Consolidated Fund or the Contingencies Fund as government revenue.
No steps can be taken without parliamentary approval. The public has known for the past two weeks and Prime Minister Rajapakse has known for a hefty six months that he did not have parliamentary approval for his dodgy Hambantota account, which in any event has not even gone to help Hambantota. (See next page)
The Prime Minister we presume, being a seasoned politician is a man well versed in the financial regulations of this country. He would also be aware that all public monies must be deposited in one of the three state banks. The Central Bank, People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon. Ditto for his secretary, Lalith Weeratunga.
F.R.381 provides for the opening of bank accounts. In order to open a bank account an application must first be made to the Treasury. The application to open an official bank account should be made through the chief accounting officer to the Treasury (Department of State Accounts), explaining the necessity for opening the account, and giving full particulars such as (a) The name of bank in which the account is to be opened (b) The title of account, (c) The designation and other particulars (salary etc.) of officers authorised to operate on the account.
The section also specifically states that after the authority has been granted to open a new bank account, the name, designation and four specimens of the signature of each officer who is authorised to sign cheques on the account must be sent to the bank concerned through the Treasury (Department of State Accounts). The list of specimen signatures which should also contain the specimen signature of the Head of the Department himself, should be signed personally by him.
Furthermore, all officers authorised to sign cheques must also furnish security.
The law is clear. And it is not on the side of the Prime Minister. Far from obtaining approval to open the account
which in any case he should have opened only in one of the three state banks, he then continues to not only give the address of his sister, Gandhini as the address of the Helping Hambantota fund but also with no blush of shame slams into place his brother Chamal and some private individuals as the signatories to the account, while also ensconcing in the directorial board his nephew Shasheendra.
The intricate procedure with regard to signatories set out in the financial regulation is circumvented as a result.
Dismissal from public service
F.R.323 states that no public monies should be made use of by public officers in anyway whatsoever for private purposes; nor will any officer borrow, advance or lend, any sum for which he is answerable to the government.
Most importantly it states “The lodging of public money to a private account, or the borrowing of public money from a government officer, is also strictly prohibited.
“It must be clearly understood that the government regards the act of lending or borrowing public money for private purposes, or the lodging of public money to a private account, as a most serious offence, and that an officer who commits any of these offences will be liable to prosecution and to dismissal from public service.”
If the state views with such severity a public official who commits such an offence, then how much more should the state and the public view the same offence, when committed by the Prime Minister of the country, a man who not many moons ago, took a solemn oath to uphold the constitution and the laws of the country.
Not only did the Prime Minister open a private account and siphon off much needed tsunami disaster relief funds into it, but also activated the account by issuing private cheques to various private persons. Having lodged the money into a private account the Prime Minister continued to flagrantly flout the laws of the country by withdrawing large sums of money without proper authorisation from the Treasury.
As published in detail last week, the private Helping Hambantota Fund opened on January 11, 2005 showed much financial movement both in and out.
On 12/01/2005 there was an opening Balance of Rs. 0 and on 12/01/2005 a debit of Rs. 300 was made for the issuance of a cheque book No. 013951-4000. For example in January itself the following withdrawals were made On 18/01/2005 by cheque No. 000013952 a withdrawal of Rs. 50,000 was made and another withdrawal on 18/01/2005 by Cheque No. 000013951 for the sum of Rs. 300,000. On 31/01/2005 by cheque No. 0000013955 a withdrawal of Rs. 200,000. Huge sums of money amounting to millions have been allegedly withdrawn every month. (see The Sunday Leader of July 17)
Luckily for the Prime Minister, neither the treasury, the minister of finance nor anybody else except his partners allegedly involved in the crime knew of this account. The Prime Minister had seen to that.
Furthermore, Article 153 of the Constitution provides for the appointment of an Auditor General who shall audit the accounts of all government departments and other institutions of government including the offices of the cabinet of ministers.
With the Prime Minister of the country removing these monies from the control of the government into a private bank how is the Auditor General to audit these monies? Obviously the Prime Minister’s intention was that the Auditor General’s Department should not touch it.
Firstly only legal entities may open an account in a bank. Thus an individual being a legal personality who could sue and be sued may open an account. So too could a company properly incorporated, a partnership or firm duly appointed also open an account in a bank.
However, Helping Hambantota was never registered as a trust, a company, a firm or a partnership. On the contrary the Prime Minister’s office itself admits that the Helping Hambantota programme was temporary and not registered in any manner.(See The Sunday Leader of July 3, July 10 and July 17)
Banking experts told The Sunday Leader that such accounts are officially called Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck accounts opened for the purposes of money laundering.
One cannot emphasise the seriousness of the PM’s action. The UNP has already lodged a complaint with the CID. The Prime Minister has fallen. And badly.
Gabriel has turned Lucifer. There is only one honourable out for the PM. He must resign. Then again, only a man of integrity will take that out.
We won’t hold our breath.
(5) Questions on ‘Helping Hambantota’ the PM is ducking
By Sonali Samarasinghe
Published 31 July 2005: This we know. Prime Minister Rajapakse’s ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund has not so far helped Hambantota in anyway, despite the continued suffering of the victims of the tsunami disaster.
Last week Prime Minister’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga attempted to whitewash the prime ministerial private bank account scam but succeeded only in admitting to several issues and further wallowing in the self-made financial mud pit.
The Sunday Leader on several occasions attempted to reach Secretary Weeratunga but he was not available for comment. This column also left with Weeratunga’s office secretary, a number of questions so that he may deliberate and answer them in his own time. Weeratunge has declined to do so.
However he appears to have gone to several other forums and attempted to clarify his position. Last week The Sunday Times carried an article of some considerable length giving what was purported to be the position of Weeratunga in relation to the Helping Hambantota private bank account scandal. On ITN Lalith Weeratunga then gave a one sided interview where he expounded his position on the matter.
The Sunday Leader would like Lalith Weeratunga to answer a number of questions, given that he is a public official and draws a salary paid for by public money. Since he has, through his lady secretary at his office shown a certain bashfulness in speaking to this newspaper since July 3 when we first broke the story, for his convenience we faxed him a number of questions he would do well to answer. (See box for list of questions)
Here below we reply to the explanations given by Lalith Weeratunga and request him to deliberate more closely on some issues that we have raised. Our replies are based on documents in our possession, criminal legislation, financial regulations, and the general rule of law.
Weeratunga it is reported wrote a letter dated February 3, 2005 to the Deputy Treasury Secretary explaining the background for setting up the Helping Hambantota special account, its operational mechanism and how the approval of the treasury will be required to pass all funds maintained in that account.
Let us say there is such a letter. Weeratunga a public official should be well aware that the financial regulation set down specific rules as to how accounts should be opened. F.R. 381 provides that in order to open an account an application must first be made to the treasury. You cannot open an account at your own whim and then inform the deputy secretary treasury.
Full details of the account to be opened including name of bank, title of account, the designation and other particulars (salary etc.) of officers authorised to open the account should be given. The name, designation and four specimen signatures of each officer who is authorised to sign cheques on the account must be sent to the bank through the treasury (Department of State accounts). The list of specimen signatures which should also contain the specimen signature of the head of department himself and should be signed personally by him. Furthermore all officers authorised to sign cheques must furnish security. Weeratunga, a senior official should know F.R. 381 by memory.
Neither can an account set up for the deposit of public funds be deposited in a private bank. It must, according to financial regulations be opened in one of the three state banks. The Central Bank, Bank of Ceylon or the People’s Bank.
What is more important is this. Since the account was opened on January 11, 2005 a series of large withdrawals have been made. For instance among several other withdrawals spanning seven months the following have been made. On January 18 by cheque no’s 0000013952 and 0000013951 sums of Rs. 50,000 and Rs.300,000 respectively have been withdrawn. On January 31 by cheque no, 0000013955 a cheque of Rs. 200,000 and on February 2 by cheque no, 0000013957 a sum of Rs. 256,862.50 have been withdrawn.
On February 11 by an inward cheque No. 0000013959 a sum of Rs. 129,500 was debited while on March 7, a sum of Rs. 1,165,000 was withdrawn by cheque no. 0000013963. On March 21 by cheque No. 0000013968 a sum of Rs. 3,031,433 was debited while the next day on March 22 another Rs. 1 million was withdrawn by inward cheque no. 0000013967. On April 27 and May 10 Rs. 2 million and Rs. 1.5 million were withdrawn respectively by CO326520 and CO326548. On May 20 by OT87200505200047 a sum of Rs.1.5 million was paid to W.W. Gamage and on July 1, by inward cheque No. 0000013975 a sum of Rs. 810,575 was withdrawn.
The Sunday Leader investigations commenced on Monday, June 27. On Friday, July 1 this writer spoke to both Prime Minister’s secretary Lalith Weeratunga and Prime Minister’s senior advisor Willie Gamage who stated he was in charge of the Helping Hambantota temporary programme. On the same day a new call deposit account No. 02-1237322-01-was hastily opened and Rs.82,958,250 was deposited into this account. The sum was Rs.2.30 more than what the Prime Minister together with his Secretary Weeratunga deposited in the Standard Chartered Bank private bank account on February 3,2005.
(1) The question is this. Did Weeratunga having by his own admission written to the Deputy Secretary Treasury that all funds in this account must necessarily obtain the approval of the treasury, then follow his own letter and in fact gain approval to make these withdrawals from the account? Did he obtain approval to issue Rs.1.5 million to W.W.Gamage. Did he obtain treasury approval to make any of the withdrawals he made during those seven months? If so why has he not disclosed this fact to the public?
(2)Weeratunga asserts that Prime Minister Rajapakse informed the cabinet that Rs. 82 million had been earmarked in a special account for relief work in the Hambantota district and obtained tacit approval of cabinet for this account. The next week cabinet had according to Weeratunga’s purported version as reported, deliberated on the matter again, and its decision of that date has been communicated to him stating that all future donations (i.e the Sinhala word labena) should be credited to the National Fund for Disaster Relief at the Central Bank. The Prime Minister’s cabinet note of February 2 does not mention the Helping Hambantota fund nor its private bank account details. The cabinet cannot give approval tacitly or otherwise for an account they know nothing about.
Cabinet on the contrary deliberated over the note sent by Prime Minister Rajapakse and took a decision on February 10. The decision is very clear. It says that cabinet takes note of the fact that the details of tsunami funds received by the Prime Minister’s office have been published in the newspapers and duly accounted for. The Sinhala words used are ‘labee athi siyaluma aramudal nisi lesa ginumgathakota athi bawata’. This means that the monies have been brought to the books of accounts. Nowhere does the December 10 decision talk of private accounts which in any event it knew nothing about. The Prime Minister saw to that.
In this context the cabinet decision goes on to say that all international and local tsunami donations must go to the Central Bank National Disaster Relief Fund. Thus to say that ‘labena’ means future donations is to engage in unforgivable semantics liberally laced with less than honest intentions.
(3)Weeratunga also pleads as one of the reasons for such a private account to be opened, the need for expediency. The Prime Minister he says was in charge of the situation as the president was holidaying in Britain.
It is true the president who we believe is not psychic and had no prior knowledge of the disaster about to happen, was indeed spending her Christmas holidays in Britain when the tsunami struck. In fact if there was so much confusion as Weeratunga makes out, then the most simple procedure to adopt would be the time tested regulated procedure of depositing these monies in the official Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Account. What was the necessity to open a Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund in direct contravention of the presidential directive of December 29 and then silently siphon off a colossal sum into a private account where the government immediately lost control of the funds?
(4)Lalith Weeratunga is quick to point out that a list of donors was published in the newspapers of February 2, 2005.
A perusal of those advertisements will only prove the astronomical farce perpetrated on the public. Firstly nowhere in that advertisement are the words Helping Hambantota Fund mentioned. Rather, it merely talks of donations received by the prime minister towards the Hambantota tsunami disaster relief development programme. Neither is there mention of a private fund in a private bank. The whole spirit of the advertisement is to give the reader the impression of official accountability while suppressing the truth.
If on the other hand like the Prime Minister’s office told this newspaper, there were written letters by each of the donors requesting that their donations be used for Hambantota then why is it that both Unilever and Keangnam, two of the largest donors in the ‘list’ have said that they in fact did not donate monies to Hambantota but for ‘national relief.’
(5) Lalith Weeratunga states that it is the request of various individuals and organisations that prompted the creation of the Hambantota Tsunami Disaster Development Programme also known as Helping Hambantota through a special account under the purview of the Rajapakse Memorial Educational and Social Services Foundation (Incorporation) Act No.23 of 1998. The account was opened at Standard Chartered Bank Weeratunga asserts, by the officials of the above foundation.The foundation has the power to accept and request donations of all forms.
Now then. It says little of Secretary Weeratunga’s knowledge of the financial regulations which should have been a subject of his constant study as a public official if it is his position that public funds received as tsunami donations could be bunged into any old private foundation or trust. It is immaterial to the issue that this foundation has the power to accept and request donations of all forms. It may have the power to turn somersaults but you cannot stash away public money into it.
Indeed Weeratunga’s new explanation is even worse than his earlier stance. Not only does this public official feel that no laws have been breached in siphoning off public money into a private account, he states that the Helping Hambantota fund was opened by the officials of the private foundation.
We give you below a list of the officials of this private foundation:
Chamal Rajapakse – Chairman, Mahinda Rajapakse – Vice Chairman, Basil Rajapakse, Gothabhaya Rajapakse, Prithi Rajapakse, Vichitra Rajapakse, Lalith Chandradasa, Secretary (Brother-in-Law), Thusith Ranawaka, W. Gunasekera, U Wijesinghe (secretary), Chandra Wijewardena, Shiranthi Wickremasinghe(wife of the PM), Ramya Hettiarachchi, Ayoma Peiris, Pushpa Wickremasinghe, Sathindra Perera, Shainda Rajapakse, Saminda Rajapakse, Himal Rajapakse, Rangani Hettiarachchi, Thejani Rajapakse, Chaminda Rajapakse, Henri dissanayake, Vernon Samarakoon, Nihal Gunasekera, N.Ratnayake, Sarath Amaraweera, A.Weerarathna, J.P.Ratnayake, J. Amarawickrama, Upul Dissanayake, Udayanga Weerathunga, Dulari Dissanayake, Kithsiri Sepala, Keerthi Dissanayake, Dushyantha Roopasinghe, Jaliya Wickremasinghe, Anura Goonaratne, S. Jayasundara, K.M.A. Godawatta, P.H.G. Premasiri, Mendis Rohanadeera, T.Jayasinghe, Layanal Sarath, Edirisinghe, D.C.H.Samarasinghe
Pray tell us under which financial regulation would the above list of ‘officials,’ practically all of whom are family,come?
Secretary Weeratunga is also quick to point out the various powers that this foundation is endowed with under the Act, but he would do well to take a closer look at the objectives of the foundation. Section three (n) states ‘to establish and maintain a Rajapakse Memorial Holiday Resort and Botanical Garden. Have these tsunami donations been made so that the Rajapakse Foundation could fulfil its objectives as per the act to maintain holiday resorts? Are the victims of this disaster to continue living in squalor in temporary shelters while the Prime Minister and his select officials fulfill the objects of the Rajapakse Memorial Foundation which include organising and holding exhibitions, symposia, conference, debates tours and excursions?
Does the Prime Minister feel that using monies for excursions and tours or for the maintenance of a holiday resort is correct when this money should be utilised only for the alleviation of suffering of the tsunami victims? Certainly if the Prime Minister were to use this money for excursions and tours he would not be contravening Act no 23 of 1998 which set up the Rajapakse Memorial Foundation, rather he would be fulfilling his duties as the vice chairman of the foundation.
But the Prime Minister has, from the moment a verbal order as per the minute made by his own accountant S.A.N.R.Subasinghe, was made to transfer public money into a private fund contravened a number of laws
The evidence is clear. Prime Minister’s Accountant S.A.N.R.Subasinghe in his minute wrote specifically that he was transferring this sum into the standard chartered bank account on the verbal instructions of both Prime Minister Rajapakse and Secretary Lalith Weeratunga. Weeratunga by placing his signature on the cheque of Rs. 82,958,247.70 endorsed the siphoning off of this astronomical sum. He breached every financial regulation pertaining to public funds and by this illegal transfer has committed an offence.
Section 386 of the Penal Code sets out the offence of criminal misappropriation of property which is defined as dishonestly misappropriating or converting to his own use any movable property. Mind you a dishonest misappropriation for a time only is still misappropriation within the meaning of this section.
Criminal Breach of Trust Section 392 of the Penal Code states that whoever being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, in his capacity of a public servant or in the way of his business as a banker, merchant, factor, broker, attorney or agent commits criminal breach of trust in respect of that property shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable for a fine.
Neither can Secretary Weeratunga hide behind a letter he claims to have written to the accountant of the Helping Hambantota Fund on how the funds should be expended.
The very fact that there was a private fund opened is an offence. Therefore if Weeratunga claims he instructed his accountant to obtain his approval on every voucher on expenditure out of the funds only reiterates his complicity in the whole scam.
Questions PM’s Secretary ducked
(1) Since the account was opened on January 11, 2005 several withdrawals have been made including Rs. 1.5 million to W.W.Gamage on May 20. You assert that a letter dated February 3, 2005 was sent by you to the Deputy Treasury Secretary stating that approval for all funds in this account should be obtained from the treasury. Have you then obtained approval for the several outward movements that have been made from this private account since January 11?
(2) Why didn’t the newspapers of February 11 which carried the advertisement not mention the Helping Hambantota fund nor divulge its private nature but rather carried the name of the programme -The Hambantota Disaster Relief Development Programme?
(3) If there was no secrecy to the Helping Hambantota fund why didn’t your own accountant S.A.N.R.Subasinghe, another public official, first make the cheque out on end January for Rs. 82,958,247.70 to the said programme name and not to ‘Helping Hambantota’? This cheque was returned, as there was no payee by that name. That very day you also issued a cheque of Rs. 28,363,135.04 to the National disaster relief Fund at the Central Bank.
(4) You subsequently together with accountant Subasinghe signed a fresh cheque for Rs. 82,958,247.70 for the Helping Hambantota fund on February 3, not 24 hours after the cabinet note was submitted by Prime Minister Rajapakse. Was this change notified to cabinet?
(5) Can you prove that all those donors listed by you as having given these monies to Hambantota had in fact done so?
(6) Unilever has already made a written statement that they donated monies for national relief and not for Hambantota. Keangnam who also donated Rs. 5 million has told the media they did not specify Hambantota but intended for the money to be used for national relief. What is your response?
(7) Your office originally told The Sunday Leader that you had written requests from all the donors to use the monies for Hambantota how do you explain the position taken by Unilever Lanka Ltd and Keangnam Enterprises, two of the largest donors.
(8) Why didn’t the cabinet note of February 2, signed by the Prime Minister, carry details of this fund when it carried details of even a fund at Sampath Bank?
(9) Considering the cabinet decision of February 10 was specific on the Prime Minister’s February 2 note calling for the transfer of all funds to the central bank disaster relief fund and this decision was communicated to you in writing on February 17, what steps did you take to implement the cabinet decision?
(10) Did you know that the address given to the bank when the Helping Hambantota Fund was opened was that of the Rajapakse family in Pangiriwatta road, Mirihana, Nugegoda?
(11) Given the minute by accountant with regard to the transfer of funds made to the Helping Hambantota account that he had verbal instructions from the Prime Minister and yourself, how are you in a position to claim the prime minister did not give such instructions?
(12) Do you know that criminal misappropriation is committed the moment money is transferred out of the lawful custodian irrespective of the money being spent or otherwise by the new custodian?
(13) Were you aware when you signed off the cheque for Rs. 82 million to Helping Hambantota that the Rajapakse Memorial Educational Cultural and social Services Foundation set up by Act No.23 of 1998 has as its objectives the establishment and maintenance of a Rajapakse Memorial Holiday Resort and Botanical Garden?
(14) Were you aware that it also has as its objectives the printing, publishing and distribution of leaflets, newspapers, magazines that the corporation may consider desirable for the promotion and advancement of its objects?
(15) How are you in a position to act on the Unilever Chairman’s letter when you are not a signatory to this private account to ensure the money is transferred?
(16) Are you then not acting in collusion with the operators of this private account?
(17) Why did you not act on this cabinet decision but instead on July 1, transferred over Rs. 82 million to a call deposit at 4 percent interest? Is it that you could do nothing since you no longer had control over this private account?
(18) In this backdrop having withheld vital information from cabinet, how is it possible for you to say that tacit approval has been given
(19) Can special accounts under the preview of any foundation whether it is the Rajapakse Memorial Educational and Social Services Foundation or otherwise be opened in private banks for the deposit of public funds?
(20) Are you aware that the members of this Foundation are almost all members of the Rajapakse family and are not officials of government?
(21) Are you aware that you and Prime Minister Rajapakse have breached a number of important regulations, laws and violated constitutional provisions?
(22) Are you aware that dishonest misappropriation for a time only is still misappropriation within the meaning of the law?
(23) Can you explain why the monies were lying in a private account for six months while tsunami victims continued to suffer in trying conditions in Hambantota?
(24) Are you aware that Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama has said that there were only three official accounts of the government with regard to tsunami aid and that Helping Hambantota was not one of them?
(25) How do you explain Finance Minister Amunugama’s statement that he is not aware of the Helping Hambantota account and the Finance Ministry has not given approval for such an account?
(26) At least now will steps be taken by you to transfer the Rs.82 million to the National Disaster Relief Fund at the central bank as the president claimed she has done with the monies received by her.
(27) Aren’t you engaging in semantics and casuistry when you take cover under the word ‘labena’ when the cabinet decision of February 10 is abundantly clear that the monies referred to are those received both prior to and after the said decision?
(6) Prime Minister’s mea culpa
By Sonali Samarasinghe
PUBLISHED 07 August 2005: The Prime Minister has at long last decided to throw in the towel over the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account scandal and return the money to the official account set up by President Chandrika Bandara-naike Kumaratunga at the Central Bank.
The agonising decision was taken by the Prime Minister after he was advised the case was weak and that he was treading political quicksand by hanging onto the money.
Two of the signatories to the controversial ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund, Professor Epasinghe and Udaya Abeyratne, on Thursday accordingly wrote to Standard Chartered Bank directing the bank to close the private account and transfer all monies to the National Fund for Disaster Relief A/C No. 4669 at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Well, not quite all.
Professor Epasinghe, a close friend of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, and Udaya Abeyratne of the Road Development Authority (RDA) and chief accountant of the Prime Minister’s Maga Neguma project were among the four signatories to the secret unauthorised account. The other two signatories included Mahinda Gunawardena, another prime ministerial confidant, and Prime Minister Rajapakse’s brother Chamal.
Admission of guilt
The transfer of these monies to the Central Bank account amounts to an admission of guilt by Prime Minister Rajapakse as this was exactly what he should have done in the first place. Having been publicly pilloried for his illegal actions, the Prime Minister could see no escape but to remedy the situation. If it were not so, why doesn’t Rajapakse stand up and defend his position? Simply put, he has no position. He has no defence.
While the offences committed cannot be wiped out and the Prime Ministerial slate can never be quite clean again, at least the return of these monies to the official Central Bank account governed by official regulations may mitigate somewhat the diabolism of his actions.
The signatories had written to Standard Chartered Bank on August 4 stating that Rs. 58 million should be transferred to the Central Bank A/C 4669.
Earlier, Unilever Sri Lanka wrote to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe stating the donation of Rs. 25 million made to the Prime Minister was for national relief and not for Hambantota only as claimed by Prime Minister Rajapakse and his Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga.
Weeratunga later told the media he had written to Unilever and agreed to transfer their donation to the National Disaster Relief Fund at the Central Bank.
The Rs. 58 million and the Rs. 25 million would add up to the total of nearly Rs. 83 million that was illegally siphoned off by Rajapakse and his officials.
The letter by the two signatories to the account also stated the rest of the money which on July 1 amounted to Rs. 19,125,056.97 be transferred back to the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund. That alone was the ultimate admission that something crooked was done in the first place by transferring out of the Punarjeewana fund to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account at Standard Chartered Bank.
To siphon out tsunami donations and stash it away in a secret private account for seven months when victims of the disaster are suffering and in temporary shelters was fiendish at best. Tsunami victims are being driven to beggary, prostitution, and a life of hopelessness while hypocritical politicians live the life of Reilly.
The Prime Ministerial change of heart comes exactly one month after The Sunday Leader exclusively exposed the scam and called for the Prime Minister to forthwith return the funds to government control.
The hurried attempt to make amends also comes just 24 hours after the UNP announced it would write to the CID again drawing attention to further details involving Prime Minister Rajapakse and the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account.
The letter was to be sent by Kegalle District MP, Kabir Hashim who was also the original complainant. The letter drafted by former Attorney General, Tilak Marapone, PC, carried details of all outward transactions made through the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund, including a payment of Rs. 1.5 million to W.W. Gamage, without Treasury approval and in violation of financial regulations. References are also made to the offences of criminal misappropriation and criminal breach of trust.
Meanwhile, President Kumaratunga, who was forced to nominate Rajapakse – her arch enemy within the SLFP ranks – as the presidential candidate last week, did not however hesitate to humiliate him in public by calling on him to forthwith return the funds to the official government account at the Central Bank.
Kumaratunga, having already retained for herself the campaign strategy of the SLFP in the upcoming presidential election, could not have been thinking of the well-being of her presidential nominee when she publicly disassociated herself with his illegal tsunami funds transfer and ordered him to put the money bank where it belonged.
The transfer of the monies to the Central Bank also comes at a time when news had reached the Prime Minister and his advisors that the Attorney General had decided on a full-scale investigation into the private account scam on the material available to them. The Attorney General had taken the view that recording Secretary Weeratunga’s statement alone would not suffice and a full scale investigation should be conducted into the entire episode.
Earlier President Kumaratunga had summoned both Rajapakse and Weeratunga to her presence and called for a full perusal of the files and for their explanations.
The UNP lodged a complaint with the CID on July 18 and the AG gave the green light to proceed with the inquiry. Later some local dailies carried a news item from Reuters quoting an unnamed senior police officer that no evidence of a criminal offence had been revealed in the case following investigations.
However, DIG, CID, Lionel Gunatilleka was quick to quash these rumours as baseless and confirmed that investigations would continue. Attorney General K.C. Kamalasabayson also confirmed to The Sunday Leader that no conclusion had been reached on the matter of a criminal offence and that material was still being perused by the department.
That the Prime Minister stood exposed and running scared in the light of documentary evidence in the hands of the CID and the Attorney General’s Department – both departments having pledged to hold an evenhanded inquiry – is now evident.
The Prime Minister stood cornered. On the one hand there were the offences of the Penal Code. On the other there were equally draconian punishments provided for in the Financial Regulations. Holding these formidable scales was none other than President Kumaratunga.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse together with a select band of his officials, on February 3, this year siphoned off a colossal sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 of tsunami donations received by the Prime Minister’s office for national relief into a private account at the Standard Chartered Bank.
He continued to maintain the account in secret even though cabinet unanimously directed him that all tsunami donations must be deposited in the National Disaster Relief Fund maintained at the Central Bank.
Kabir Hashim’s letter
Kegalle MP Kabir Hashim’s letter lodged with the CID last Friday calls for the illegal ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund to be frozen and a full scale investigation launched into the several withdrawals made from this account. (See box for full letter)
The Sunday Leader has since July 3 systematically set out the facts before the public with regard to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ Fund.
Little remains to be said. Last week this column replied the various untested assertions made by Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office in a one sided private interview he arranged with the state controlled ITN.
We are happy that the Prime Minister has now given the money he illegally siphoned off back to the people of this country. This is what he should have done in the first place. We are also happy that he has decided even at this late stage to re transfer the residue back to the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund.
Even though the setting up of this fund too was contrary to Presidential directives at least there is solace in the fact that the fund is government regulated and falls within the financial procedure set out by the Treasury.
However, having said this we would like to point out that neither the Prime Minister nor his willing officials can be absolved from blame so easily or quickly. It is one thing to be men of integrity, it is quite another to be forced to be men of dignity when caught out by the media. That too after accusing the media of mud slinging.
Law of the land
We would like to leave the public with three vital sections of the law of this land:
F.R. 323 of the Financial Regulations is very clear with regard to culpability. “No public money shall be made use of by public officers in any way whatsoever for private purposes; nor will any officer borrow, advance, or lend, any sum for which he is answerable to the government. The lodging of public money to a private account, or the borrowing of public money from a government officer, is also strictly prohibited.
“An officer who commits any of these offences will be liable to prosecution and to dismissal from public service.”
The Penal Code of this nation sets out that it would amount to an offence of criminal misappropriation under section 386 of the code if a person dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use any movable property. Mind you, a dishonest misappropriation for a time only is still misappropriation within the meaning of this section.
The code also sets out the offence of Criminal Breach of Trust as set out in section 392 to be made if a person being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, in his capacity of public servant or in the way of his business as a banker, merchant, factor, broker, attorney or agent commits criminal breach of trust in respect of that property shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable for a fine.
Consider these things in conclusion. The Prime Minister complained bitterly to his friends and on hurriedly printed posters to the public that happened to see them that this was a mud slinging campaign. “I am not guilty,” was his ardent cry. Pray, if it were a mud slinging campaign, why did he take the decision to return the money?
That is not all. The Prime Minister, having returned to its rightful place the sum of Rs. 83 million, cannot yet rest with an easy conscience.
The very fact that he has directed through the signatories to the account that the rest of the monies from the private ‘Helping Hambantota’ account be transferred back to the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund is in itself a further admission that all the monies in that private Standard Chartered Bank account were meant for the National Disaster Relief Fund and for the tsunami victims, no matter what their geographical location.
We cannot stress enough that it is immaterial one way or another when public funds are in question whether the donors wanted the funds used for a specific purpose. The law is clear and it is not on the side of Mahinda Rajapakse.
F.R. 170 of the Financial Regulations states that even if a donor requests that money should be used for a specific purpose, that money must go to the consolidated fund as government revenue and no steps can be taken without parliamentary approval. We know very well that quite apart from parliamentary approval, the Prime Minister was given clear cabinet directions to deposit all monies he received as tsunami aid to the Central Bank National Fund.
How does the Prime Minister intend to account for all the withdrawals he has made from the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account since it was opened on January 11? By transferring it all back to government control he admits that it is in fact public money donated for tsunami relief. But what of the monies he has merrily used sans any Treasury approval, up until this newspaper exposed the scandal on July 3?
That is not all. There is also a little matter of interest that has to be sorted out, and pronto. On July 1, the sum of Rs. 82,958,250 was transferred to a call deposit A/C no 02-1237322-01 at an interest of 4 percent. That belongs to the public.
Mr. Prime Minister put that back too. Enough said. The rest is silence.
Kabir Hashim’s letter to the CID
“This is further to the complaint I made on July 19 against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse regarding the commission of the offence of criminal breach of trust in relation to donations received for tsunami victims.
“The Prime Minister transferred from a government account the sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 to a private account called ‘Helping Hambantota.’ I have now received information that several outward payments have been made from this public money that was deposited in the said private account.
“There are reliable facts to show that these several outward payments have been made for private purposes and not for the benefit of tsunami victims. The several outward payments are as follows:
(1) 18.01.05 – by cheque no. 013952 a withdrawal of Rs. 50,000
(2) 18.01.05 – by cheque no. 013951 a withdrawal of Rs. 300,000
(3) 31.01.05 – by cheque no. 013955 a cheque of Rs. 200,000
(4) 02.02.05 – by cheque no. 013957 a sum of Rs. 256,862.50
(5) 11.02.05 – by cheque no. 013959 a sum of Rs. 129,500
(6) 03.03.05 – international transfer a sum of Rs. 9,917,520
(7) 07.03.05 – by cheque no. 013963 a sum of Rs. 1,165,000
(8) 09.03.05 – by cheque no. 013962 a sum of Rs. 130,500
(9) 11.03.05 – by cheque no. 013964 a sum of Rs. 136,850
(10) 11.03.05 – by cheque no. 013965 a sum of Rs. 22,981
(11) 11.03.05 – by cheque no. 013966 a sum of Rs. 49,450
(12) 21.03.05 – by cheque no. 013968 a sum of Rs. 3,031,433
(13) 22.03.05 – by cheque no. 013967 a sum of Rs. 1 million
(14) 27.04.05 – by CO326520 a sum of Rs. 2 million
(15) 29.04.05 – by cheque no. 013970 a sum of Rs. 10,177.50
(16) 10.05.05 – by CO326548 a sum of Rs. 1.5 million
(17) 20.05.05 – by OT87200505200047 a sum of Rs. 1.5 million was paid to W.W. Gamage
(18) 01.07.05 – by cheque no. 013975 a sum of Rs. 810,575”
Hashim states in his letter that “evidence has also surfaced to show that during the relevant period monies that were given from time to time to the Prime Minister as donations for tsunami victims have been deposited in the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account. As I stated in my original complaint there is reliable evidence to show that these monies too have been misappropriated by the Prime Minister.”
The letter calls for a full-scale investigation to be launched with regard to the monies in fact received by the Prime Minister as tsunami aid and the several withdrawals the Prime Minister has already made from this account. Hashim also calls for the CID to obtain a court order freezing the said ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account so that in future the misappropriation of funds intended for tsunami victims could be prevented.
EXCLUSIVE – LEAD STORY
(7) Under intense investigation…
PM returns the Rs. 83 mn to govt.
By Sonali Samarasinghe
PUBLISHED 07 August 2005: Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse knee deep in controversy over the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account scam and under intense pressure due to the on going investigations finally returned the money Friday to the National Disaster Relief Fund of the Central Bank.
Instructions to close the account at the Standard Chartered Bank went out in writing on Thursday. Two of the signatories to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account, Professor Epasinghe and Udaya Abeyratne, informed the bank to close the account and transfer Rs. 58 million to the Central Bank.
The bank was instructed to transfer the balance monies in the account to the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund at People’s Bank.
The hurried decision to transfer the monies came in the backdrop of the Attorney General issuing instructions to launch a full scale investigation into the complaint made by the UNP Kegalle District MP, Kabir Hashim that the Prime Minister and his Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga had committed offences under the Penal Code, namely that of criminal misappropriation and criminal breach of trust, and violated financial regulations.
The Sunday Leader exclusively reported on July 3 that Prime Minister Rajapakse and his Secretary had authorised the siphoning off of nearly Rs. 83 million from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund to a newly opened ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account at the Standard Chartered Bank.
The Prime Minister subsequently claimed he received these monies specifically for use in Hambantota and had obtained cabinet approval to transfer the funds.
The Sunday Leader subsequently established that the cabinet decision was in fact to the contrary and the Prime Minister had lied both to cabinet and parliament.
One of the donors identified as contributing Rs. 25 million to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account, Unilever Lanka Limited in writing informed Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe that the monies were given for the national relief effort and not to ‘Helping Hambantota.’
UNP wants speedy prosecution on ‘Helping Hambantota’ scam
The United National Party (UNP) in writing informed President Chandrika Kumaratunga last week that it was a sad indictment on her government for failing to take action against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse for the ‘Helping Hambantota’ scam and warned the UNP government would prosecute all those complicit in the crime regardless of the office they hold.
The UNP wrote to the President under the signature of Assistant General Secretary and Kandy District MP, Tissa Attanayake and copied it to the Attorney General, IGP and the DIG, CID.
Attanayake in his letter refers to an earlier letter written by UNP Deputy Leader, Karu Jayasuriya and states that despite ordering a CID inquiry into the embezzlement of Rs. 83 million of tsunami funds, the inquiry appears to have been brushed under the carpet.
“The Prime Minister not only misappropriated Rs. 83 million, breaking the law and contravening a host of government regulations including a general circular sent out under your authority but he also shamefully lied to cabinet and to parliament in trying to exculpate himself,” Attanayake has written.
“What is more when it became clear that the media exposure was becoming an embarrassment to his campaign for the presidency, the Prime Minister without a word to anyone, including presumably yourself, credited the money to the National Disaster Relief Fund and closed the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account. By this very act – by returning the stolen goods – he has in effect admitted that he had misappropriated the funds in the first place,” Attanayake had said.
Attanayake has called on the President to salvage the reputation of her government and her own reputation by instituting without further delay a transparent inquiry into this fraud against the people and the role of the Prime Minister leading to a swift prosecution.
|The court record||By Sonali SamarasingheOn Thursday (15) Mahinda Rajapakse’s election campaign exploded in his face with the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) filing action in the Fort Magistrate’s Court on the ‘Helping Hambantota’ scam.
The B report, in case no:B/1294/05, prepared by Fraud Squad 1 of the CID was filed before Fort Magistrate, Sarath Karunatileke under Section 115 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Sri Lanka.
Based on the report filed by the CID the court immediately called for details of the several bank accounts involved in the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fiasco including the private account maintained at Standard Chartered Bank.
Details of three bank accounts called for
The magistrate made order directing the managers of People’s Bank Union Place, Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya and Central Bank Taprobane to furnish all necessary details to the CID to facilitate the proper investigation and inquiry into the case.
Details to be furnished included the mandate to open the account, a summary of the account from the date it was opened up until August 2005, details of all deposits into the account during the above period and details of cheques, all withdrawals from the accounts and details of cheques and copies of the bank draft depositing monies into the National Disaster Relief Fund.
The Fraud Squad of the CID investigated the private account scam on a complaint of Criminal Misappropriation and Criminal Breach of Trust under Sections 386 and 388 of the Penal Code of Sri Lanka made against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse by UNP MP Kabir Hashim on July 19 this year.
However the investigation and the magisterial inquiry, which is set to commence with the filing of the B Report, is already coming under heavy fire with allegations of political interference and subterfuge.
The Prime Minister who received large sums of money following the December 26 tsunami disaster is accused of opening an account named ‘Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund’ on December 31, 2004 at People’s Bank and depositing over Rs. 73 million in contravention of a presidential directive dated December 29, 2004 not to open any separate accounts but to credit all monies received into the President’s Fund for Disaster Relief maintained at the Central Bank.
The Prime Minister and his Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga had subsequently directed Accountant S.A.N.R. Subasinghe to transfer Rs. 82,958,247.70 to a private account established at the Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya on January 29 this year under the name ‘Helping Hambantota.’
The original cheque dated January 31, 2004 was returned due to a wrong payee name and a fresh cheque dated February 3 signed by Weeratunga and Subasinghe was issued to the payee name ‘Helping Hambantota A/C No. 011-237322-01.’
Key witnesses not questioned
Firstly the investigation initiated by the CID in consultation with the Attorney General’s Department was not properly carried out in that key players in the sordid saga were not questioned nor their statements recorded.
S.A.N.R. Subasinghe, the accountant at the Prime Minister’s office, was one of the two signatories together with Prime Ministerial Secretary Lalith Weeratunga to the infamous cheque of Rs. 82,958,247.70 from a government account into Mahinda Rajapakse’s private bank account at Standard Chartered Bank named ‘Helping Hambantota.’
Further a file minute in Subasinghe’s writing (see previous The Sunday Leader articles) stated that it was Prime Minister Rajapakse and Secretary Weeratunga who directed him verbally to transfer these monies into the private account.
Even an amateur detective would have known that Accountant Subasinghe’s statement would be vital to the case. However while the CID has recorded the statements of eight persons, they have failed to record his statement. Neither have they recorded the statement of Rajapakse himself whose private account under the name D.A. Rajapakse Foundation was so cleverly augmented in February thanks to the generosity of donors who believed they were gifting these monies to genuine tsunami victims.
Furthermore even though the CID recorded the statements of two signatories to the private account at STB Rajagiriya they failed to record the statements of Prime Minister Rajapakse’s brother and Deputy Minister of Plantations Industries Chamal Rajapakse and the Prime Minister’s close associate, Mahinda Gunawardena both of whom were also signatories to the account.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse however was well aware of Subasinghe’s importance to the investigation. Significantly, last Thursday even as the inquiry against the Prime Minister was being set in motion at the Fort Magistrate’s Court, Accountant Subasinghe was being hastily transferred to the Industries Ministry.
But this is not the first indignity inflicted upon the accountant who was made a pawn and a scape goat by the Prime Minister. Earlier Subasinghe who was set to go on a routine public service scholarship to Singapore was stopped by the Prime Minister’s Office just two days before he was to leave to the airport.
CID and AG play games
Secondly a perusal of the court record and the CID report in this case clearly show that another game is afoot.
The CID first filed the B report on Wednesday, September 14 under the hand of Chief Inspector Ampawila of the Fraud Squad. Based on the report the Magistrate made order calling for the details of the three relevant bank accounts, that is the National Fund For Disaster Relief account at the Central Bank Taprobane Branch account No.4669, Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund at the People’s Bank Union Place Branch account No. 14100170136270 and the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account No.011237322-01 at the Standard Chartered Bank in Rajagiriya.
B report withdrawn
Later on the same day Chief Inspector Ampawila filed a further report in court with regard to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ inquiry. Ampawila told court that based on telephone directions given to DIG CID by the Attorney General he was instructed to withdraw the B report. And the report was withdrawn.
While the Magistrate’s Court record sets out the sequence of events a perusal of the CID report filed in court later on September 14 at paragraph 2 reiterates that it was the Attorney General who by telephone directed the DIG CID to withdraw the B report already filed in court.
However the Attorney General denied to The Sunday Leader that any foul play was afoot and claimed the whole episode was the result of a communication mishap. (See box for full text of the Attorney General’s response)
Report filed again
The next day however, that is in the afternoon of Thursday, September 15, CID officers were to file the report once again at the Fort Magistrate’s Court. The report was unaltered save that it was filed now not by Chief Inspector Ampawila but by Inspector Dayapala also of the Fraud Squad 1 of the CID.
This report filed again on September 15 withdrew the previous report attempting to withdraw the case and restored the earlier status of the B report filed.
Passing the buck
While the Attorney General ducks for cover under communication errors and the CID attempts to shift the blame onto the Attorney General’s shoulders it is clear that the CID investigation itself was not conducted in a thorough fashion with many key players in the scam not even being questioned.
One must also bear in mind that the Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando is a close buddy of Mahinda Rajapakse and their friendship goes back a long way. The IGP is not a man who has a track record of backing up his own men either. His appalling Pontius Pilate approach to his own NIB officers who on a legitimate inspection of a hotel had clashed with the infamous Malaka Silva, son of the ridiculous MP Mervyn Silva bears witness to this sad fact.
The B report
Be that as it may the report filed by the CID on September 15 states thus:
‘That the investigation commenced on a complaint made by UNP MP Kabir Hashim. Hashim’s complaint stated that The Sunday Leader newspapers of July 3 and July 10 and the Irudina newspaper of July 10 carried reports that local and foreign funds donated to the country for tsunami relief and reconstruction had been deposited in a private account by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse.
‘While President Chandrika Kumaratunga was away when the disaster happened, immediately upon her return to the country she directed all heads of departments by Circular No. P.A 272 to deposit any donations into the National Disaster Relief Fund Account No. 4669 set up at the Central Bank. The circular dated December 29, 2004 also specifically directed that monies should not be deposited in any other account. The facts being these however the Prime Minister’s Office had nevertheless deposited tsunami donations into a separate account named the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund account No. 014100170136270 maintained at the People’s Bank Union Place Branch. This account was opened on December 31, 2004.
‘This account thus flouted the Presidential directive above. The signatories to this account were Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Lalith Weeratunga, Additional Secretary, PMO, Gamini Senarath, Senior Assistant Secretary, Sunil Hewa Pathirana and Accountant S. Subasinghe.’
The B report further states that the complaint made by MP Hashim also says that on February 3, by cheque No. 179127 a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 was transferred from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund at People’s Bank to a private account at Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya. That this account was maintained in the name of Prime Minister Rajapakse’s late father’s trust the D.A. Rajapakse Foundation. The signatories to this account were Advisor to the Prime Minister, Professor P. Epasinghe, Mahinda Gunawardena, Udaya Abeyratne and Chamal Rajapakse.
That according to The Sunday Leader newspaper of July 10, Accountant S. Subasinghe had sought approval from Secretary Lalith Weeratunga to transfer the said monies to the private STB account on the verbal directions given to Subasinghe by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse. Weeratunga had granted approval to do so and the said monies were deposited into a fixed deposit at the private bank.
The report further detailing MP Hashim’s complaint to the CID states that on July 5, an adjournment question was asked by UNP MPs John Amaratunga and Dayasri Jayasekera from Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse regarding this account and he admitted that Rs. 82 million was in fact deposited into the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund for which he had obtained cabinet approval.
The complaint states according to the B report that no such cabinet approval for the transfer of these monies was obtained.
Therefore Hashim’s complaint alleges as per the CID report filed in court that the deposit of local and foreign tsunami donations sent to the country, into a private account amounts to criminal misappropriation of state funds and criminal breach of trust and calls for an inquiry into this matter.
The CID B report states that on receipt of the complaint by MP Kabir Hashim both the complaint and a copy of a statement made by Prime Minister’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga were submitted by communication No. C.F. 17/2005 dated 25.07.2005 to the Attorney General for his perusal and advice.
Subsequently based on the advice received from the Attorney General statements were recorded from the following persons. The report then sets out the statements recorded from eight persons and then continues to state as follows:
That the Attorney General has advised the CID to obtain details of all transactions pertaining to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account. Accordingly the details of the following accounts together with relevant cheques issued are needed to facilitate further investigation. Therefore application to call for the said details was also made to the court under Section 90(e)1 of the Evidence Ordinance and Section 124 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Let us here for a moment digress from the report to make an observation. Already we have noted that statements of persons vital to the investigation such as Mahinda Gunawardena one of the signatories to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account at STB, PM Mahinda Rajapakse and Accountant S. Subasinghe were for reasons best known to the Fraud Squad not recorded.
The CID seems to at every turn cover its back by stating that they proceeded with the investigation according to the instructions of the Attorney General. The inference begging to be drawn here is that it was on the advice of the AG that certain persons statements were recorded and others were not.
Be that as it may let us now take a dekko at the statements made to the CID in Sinhala by several persons connected with the matter.
Lalith Weeratunga, Prime Minister’s Secretary:
He states he had been working as the PM’s Secretary since April 6, 2004. That immediately after the tsunami on December 12, 2004 since President Kumaratunga was out of the country the Prime Minister had to take charge of the situation and a task force was thus set up at Temple Trees. That up to July 8, 2005, this Temple Trees office had received 112 local and foreign donations. As these donations received by the Prime Minister had to be separated from other government funds a separate official account No. 014100170-136270 titled Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund was set up at People’s Bank Union Place. A sum of Rs. 73,926,516.74 approved by Voucher No. C. 762 was deposited into this People’s Bank account on January 4, 2005.
Among those who donated monies to the Prime Minister, 20 donors requested that their donations be used for the Hambantota tsunami relief and development programmes. This was brought to the notice of the donors through advertisements published in the Daily News, Dinamina and the Dinakaran newspapers of February 2, 2005. That satisfied that the Rajapakse Memorial Educational Cultural and Social Services Foundation was directly involved in Hambantota tsunami relief efforts a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 by cheque No.179128 was transferred from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund into an account No. 1-1237322-01 at the Standard Chartered Bank called the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund.
This was done because already the above mentioned civil society organisation had commenced tsunami relief work in Hambantota and a large number of donors had requested the Prime Minister to use their donations to develop the Hambantota area. Further while his approval had to be obtained in order to spend any of these moneys a detailed report on the donations received to the Prime Minister’s office was sent on February 3, 2005 No 201/Disaster to the Treasury and approval obtained from the Treasury. That on the same day a sum of Rs. 82,998,247.70 was deposited in the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account the remaining moneys in the Punarjeewana fund were deposited in the National Relief Fund.
Later, the Rs. 82,958,247.70 and interest accrued thereto was withdrawn from the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund and deposited into the National Disaster Fund. Therefore none of the donations received by the state has been used for the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project. He also states that the transfer of Rs. 82,958,247.70 from the PM’s Punarjeewana Fund into the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund was notified to cabinet by a note presented by Prime Minister Rajapakse and that he received the related cabinet decision on or about February 17, 2005.
Questions on Weeratunga’s CID statement
(1) Weeratunga justifies the actions by stating that in any event the funds received by the state was returned to the state and not used for the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project. Does Weeratunga now admit finally that these were state funds and thus could not be deposited in a private account?
(2) Has Weeratunga in fact carefully read and understood the contents of the cabinet decision of February 17, 2005 based on Prime Minister Rajapakse’s cabinet note of February 2, where the cabinet unanimously agrees that all tsunami funds received locally and internationally should be deposited in the National Disaster Fund maintained at the Central Bank of Sri Lanka?
(3) Has he not acted in violation of the Presidential directive of December 29, 2004 not to create separate accounts for tsunami donations when he two days after receipt of the directive set up the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund and then transferred approximately Rs. 83 million into a private account?
(4) Why did the newspaper advertisements of February 2, 2005 not carry details of a ‘Helping Hambantota’ account but rather engaged in subterfuge by referring to a ‘Hambantota tsunami relief and reconstruction programme’?
(5) Since the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account was opened on January 11, 2005 several withdrawals have been made including Rs. 1.5 million to W.W. Gamage on May 20. Has Weeratunga obtained approval for the several outward movements that have been made from this private account of monies belonging to the state as he himself admits in his statement to the CID?
(6) If Weeratunga was concerned about separating the donations from other government funds there was a fund already opened at the Central Bank by the President for that very purpose.
Udaya Supriyadharshi Abeyratne, Accountant, ‘Helping Hambantota’ project
On a request made by Secretary Godawatte to the D.A. Rajapakse Memorial Foundation he agreed to be the accountant for the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project. That he had the power to sign cheques relating to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account No. 123732201. That of the donations to this project by various donors Rs. 5,868,000 was utilised from the account to rebuild 14 houses destroyed by the tsunami and to built a shopping centre.
A further Rs. 8,265,183 was used to purchase 1,573 packages of kitchen utensils and another Rs. 419,831 used to import and transport these items. A sum of Rs. 49,450 was used to survey land in order to relocate a damaged school. Rs. 810,575 to built a legal aid commission in Hambantota, another Rs. 500,575 to build a ‘Helping Hambantota’ coordination office. Rs. 267,000 to purchase furniture for the said coordination office. Rs. 33,350 for printing of stationery. Rs. 150,000 to refurbish Beliatte Hospital. Rs. 98,227 as incidental expenses.
Abeyratne also says that since it was stated that the expenditure of the Rs. 82 million (approx) from the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund must be approved by the Prime Minister’s Secretary that upto now this sum had not been used for this project. Further that on the instructions of the Prime Minister’s Secretary the donation of Rs. 25 million in accrued interest was again re-transferred from the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account into the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund. And that after inquiry from the Secretary to the D.A. Rajapakse Memorial Foundation a sum of Rs. 58,164,220.16 was deposited by bank draft dated August 4,2004 into the National Relief Fund.
Mohamed Mawahjib Mohamed Mowjood, Director Road Development Authority, Sethsiripaya, Battaramulla
That on the directions of the Prime Minister he was appointed a director of the Board of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project in February 2005. That the others on the board include PM’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Hatton National Bank Chairman Rienzie Wijetilleke, PM’s Private Secretary Sasheendra Kumara Rajapakse. That none of the monies received by the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project from the PM’s Punarjeewana Fund had been utilised for the project and that the sum had been re-transferred to the National Relief Fund.
Rienzie Theobald Wijetilleke, Chairman, HNB
That in January or February 2005 Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse telephoned Wijetilleke and stated that a project for tsunami relief and reconstruction of affected areas of the Hambantota District was being carried out and solicited his support. Wijetilleke states he agreed to extend his support to the project. On February 26, 2005 he received a letter under the Prime Minister’s hand appointing him to the board of directors of the above project. Even though some one called requesting that he participate in the board meetings he was unable to do so as he was engaged in other work. He states he has not signed any document pertaining to this project.
Seneviratne Bandara Divaratne, Deputy Treasury Secretary
He states that he has been working as Deputy Treasury Secretary since 2000. That on February 3, 2005 he received a communication from Prime Minister’s Secretary which states that Rs. 82 million of monies received by the Prime Minister was being deposited in the ‘Helping Hambantota’ Fund and also gave a report on how the various donations received by the Prime Minister’s Office was used. The letter also stated that the approval of the Treasury would be obtained before the said monies were used. And that later the sum was deposited into the National Relief Fund account 4669 of the Central Bank.
(1) Did Divaratne know that the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund was a private account?
(2) Was he aware of financial regulations governing state funds as a senior official of the Treasury?
(3) Was he aware that since the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account was opened on January 11, 2005 at the private STB monies were being regularly withdrawn from the account?
(4) If so did he approve these outward payments? Is he aware that if so he too may be guilty of aiding and abetting a crime and of breaching financial regulations, a serious offence for a public servant?.
(5) Was he aware that before even the setting up of the Prime Minister’s Punarjeewana Fund on December 31, 2004 a Presidential directive was sent to all departments not to open any new accounts and to deposit all donations into one National Disaster Relief Fund?
(6) As a public servant does he find that the Prime Minister’s Office has flouted a Presidential directive?
(7) Was Divaratne aware that members of the D.A. Rajapakse Foundation were all members of the Rajapakse family and not officials of government?
(8) Was he aware that the Act No. 23 of 1998 which set up the said foundation has as one of its objectives the maintenance of a Rajapakse Memorial Holiday Resort and Botanical Garden?
(9) Was he aware that it also had as its objective the printing publishing and distribution of leaflets, newspapers, magazines that the corporation may consider desirable for the promotion and advancement of its objects?
Shasheendra Kumara Rajapakse, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
He states that since 2004 he has been Secretary to the Prime Minister and has been a member of the board of directors of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project and that he participated in the affairs of this project. He states that the Rs. 82 million given by Prime Minister’s Secretary to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project was not used and was redeposited in to the National Disaster Relief Fund.
Piyadasa Wimalasena Epasinghe, Prime Ministerial Advisor, Prime Minister’s Secretariat
He states he is the Chairman of the Colombo Branch of the D.A. Rajapakse Foundation. That on the request of its Secretary Godawatte he became involved in the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project and was became a signatory to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account maintained at Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya. That from January 12, 2005 upto August 4, he signed 12 cheques and all moneys were used to rebuilt homes destroyed by the tsunami to construct other buildings Further he states that the Rs. 82 million (approx) received from the Prime Minister’s Secretary was not used and redeposited in to the National Disaster Fund.
William Wijesinghe Gamage, Advisor, Southern Roads Project, Sethsiripaya, Battaramulla
At the request of Chairman, D.A. Rajapakse Foundation, Chamal Rajapakse he states he got involved with the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project and that accordingly 14 houses and the legal aid office was constructed and he is aware that the monies used were received by the ‘Helping Hambantota’ project from various donors. Thus Rs. 6,794,000.00 was used to build 14 houses. Rs. 810,575 was used to build the legal aid office. Rs. 10,177.50 was used to purchase a white board for the ‘Helping Hambantota’ coordinating office.
The one thread that runs through every statement is that the Rs. 82,958.247.70 deposited in the ‘Helping Hambantota’ private account was returned to the National Disaster Relief Fund. This is where the money should have been deposited seven months ago.
Thus it is obvious that all statements were recorded by the CID after the Rs. 83 million (approx) was deposited in the Central Bank National Disaster Relief Fund.
However the complaint on which the CID acts was lodged with the department on July 19, 2004. No monies had been returned by then and in fact it was the Prime Minister’s firm stand at that time that he had obtained cabinet approval to deposit state funds in a private account. Not only that his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga made statements to a section of the media denying that any offence had been committed.
The fact remains that the country became aware of the private nature of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ account only after The Sunday Leader exposed the scam. With every new investigation the Prime Minister and some officials from his office came up with a new excuse. As each excuse was shot down either on the basis of the law of the country and/or as a plain and simple fib the Prime Minister was to get cornered.
The straw that broke the camels back was a letter written by Unilever, one of the largest donors whom the Prime Minister claimed had requested that their monies go to Hambantota, denying this in writing to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. They in fact in writing reiterated that their donation was made in respect of all the areas and not only Hambantota.
It is ironic that morality struck the Prime Minister’s office only when the cat was out of the bag.
We do not wish to speculate whether there was some conspiracy by the investigating officers to bide their time until the monies in question were returned before recording the statements of these eight persons. We only wish to add that misappropriation for a time is still misappropriation within the meaning of the law.
|Attorney General says…“The CID filed a report in court in the morning without reference to the Attorney General although clear instructions had been given not to file any papers in court without instructions from the State Counsel. When we got to know that something had happened State Counsel phoned the CID and was told Chief Inspector Ampavila had gone to the Magistrate’s Court to file the B report.
“Immediately the police was contacted and told not to file the report because the instructions of the Attorney General had not been obtained. Subsequently the State Counsel examined the file and decided to allow the order to stand.
“Then State Counsel met me and I perused the papers and said the Magistrate’s order is okay. Then we got to know the CID had gone and withdrawn the order. I then instructed Deputy Solicitor General Palitha Fernando who in turn ordered the CID to have the order restored and action was accordingly taken on Thursday 15. I do not think there was any attempt to interfere with the investigation. It was merely a communication mishap.”
The Penal Code states…
The relevant sections of the Penal Code are as follows:
Whoever dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use any movable property shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or fine or with both.
Section 386, explanation 1:
A dishonest misappropriation for a time only is misappropriation within the meaning of this section.
Criminal Breach of Trust:
Whoever being in any manner entrusted with property or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he has made touching the discharge of such trust or willfully suffers any other person so to do, commits ‘criminal breach of trust.’
‘Helping Hambantota’ Magistrate transferred
By Sonali Samarasinghe
Controversy surrounds the transfer of Fort Magistrate and Additional District Judge, Sarath Karunaratne who last week issued order to inspect the bank accounts related to the ‘Helping Hambantota’ case.
The transfer order comes four days before the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) was to report to Magistrate Karunaratne their findings on the investigation into the bank accounts including the private bank account maintained by Premier Mahinda Rajapakse at the Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya Branch.
The case is to be called in the Fort Magistrate’s Court on September 28.
The Magistrate’s order to the CID to inspect the bank accounts last week itself was shrouded in controversy after the CID, on the instructions of the Attorney General, moved to have the order vacated.
However the CID, on the instructions of the Attorney General, had the order restored the following day before an acting magistrate.
Secretary, Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Chandra Jayatilleka told The Sunday Leader the transfer was not coloured. He said Magistrate Karunaratne was transferred as additional district judge, Colombo after a preliminary inquiry on a complaint against the Magistrate received by the Commission last month. The JSC had taken the decision Thursday evening.
Asked why he was not interdicted or suspended pending inquiry if that was the case, Jayatilleka said a judge of the Court of Appeal has been appointed to go into the complaint made against him and if the JSC decided to charge sheet him then suspension or interdiction may follow.
Secretary Jayatilleka also told The Sunday Leader Karunaratne was promoted as a special class district judge a year ago and transferred routinely to the Homagama District Court. However, since controversy was generated regarding the transfer in connection with the hearing of the Ravi Karunanayake anticipatory bail application, the transfer was deferred.
Jayatilleka also explained that Magistrate Karunaratne was later transferred to the Matugama District Court, but the transfer was cancelled due to personal grounds on an application made by the Magistrate.
Secretary, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Anoma Goonetilleke told The Sunday Leader the BASL has no right to interfere in a decision made by the JSC. Asked why the BASL then took up the matter of the suspension and subsequent interdiction of Wellawaya Magistrate Bandara, Goonetilleke drew a distinction stating the Wellawaya issue involved the JSC interfering in a magisterial order.
The proper legal forum to review a magisterial order would be in an appeal to a higher court.
The BASL held its monthly Bar Council meeting yesterday. Senior Bar Council members told The Sunday Leader they would have to first look into the circumstances of the transfer and decide on a course of action thereafter, if necessary.
However, civil rights groups are concerned the transfer, which comes in the wake of Magistrate Karunaratne ordering the investigation into the bank accounts, may be perceived as colourable. The head of the JSC is Chief Justice Sarath Silva.
It is reliably learnt a lawyer made the complaint against the Magistrate to the JSC on an order made by the Magistrate in a case involving the lawyer’s client.
Meanwhile, senior lawyers told The Sunday Leader that if the complaint against Magistrate Karunaratne was one of misconduct then he should have been suspended or interdicted pending inquiry.
However, if it were a complaint on an order made in a case then the proper legal procedure would have been to appeal to a higher court. The JSC in such an event will not be the proper forum, they added.
It is widely thought that Magistrate Champa Janaki Rajaratne will replace Magistrate Karunaratne as the Fort Magistrate.
Rajapakse vs. Attanayake
Mahinda Rajapakse and Tissa Attanayake
UNP’s Assistant General Secretary, Tissa Attanayake has called Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse’s bluff on the ‘Helping Hambantota’ case and challenged him to take the matter to court by way of a defamatory action.
Attanayake was responding to a purported letter of demand sent by Rajapakse and published in the state media following an earlier letter the UNP’s Assistant General Secretary wrote to President Chandrika Kumaratunga demanding action be taken against the Prime Minister over the ‘Helping Hambantota’ scam.
In his letter sent through Attorneys-at-Law Samararatna Associates, Attanayake has said he will counter sue Rajapakse to the tune of Rs. 1,000,000,001 (Rs. 1 billion + Rs. 1) and donate the money to the tsunami victims islandwide including those affected in Hambantota.
The full text of Attanayake’s letter is as follows:
September 21, 2005
Mr. Sanath Wijewardane,
629-E, Talangama South,
We write on the instructions of our client, Hon. Tissa Attanayake, Assistant General Secretary of the United National Party.
We refer to the purported letter of demand claimed to have been sent by you which was published in the Daily News on September 16, 2005 under the caption “Publication of defamatory news item letter of demand to Attanayake.” We are instructed to state that our client has not received the said purported letter of demand. However you have thought it fit to publish a purported letter of demand in the newspapers without first sending it to our client from whom a demand of Rs. 1 billion has been made. In any event we are instructed by our client to respond to the purported letter of demand as was published in the Ceylon Daily News of September 16, 2005.
While our client does not agree with your client’s understanding and /or interpretation of the publication of our client’s letter dated July 26, 2005 addressed to Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, our client reiterates the contents of the said letter. Our client instructs us that The Sunday Leader newspaper of September 4, 2005 contains a true and accurate report of our client’s said letter dated July 26, 2005. Furthermore, our client has instructed us to make the following observations:
a. You are well aware of the fact that Hon. Kabir Hashim, MP, has complained to the CID on July 19, 2005 on the misappropriation of funds and criminal breach of trust of a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 by your client, Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse, current holder of the office of Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, of the monies donated to the government of Sri Lanka by private donors.
b. You are also aware of the fact that the said sum of money was transferred to a private account at a private bank, namely, the Standard Chartered Bank, account No. 011237322-01 opened at instance of your client Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse at its Rajagiriya Branch on February 3, 2005.
c. You/your client, Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse is well aware of the fact that the cabinet of ministers has decided on February 10, 2005 that all funds received for the purpose of tsunami relief should be remitted to the National Disaster Relief Fund of the Central Bank.
d. As at the said date your client, Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse had deposited Rs. 111,401,152.74 to the credit of People’s Bank Union Place branch, account No. 014100170136270.
c. Your client, Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse has instructed his Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga, to draw a People’s Bank Union Place branch cheque No. 179127 dated February 3, 2005 for a sum of Rs. 82,958,247.70 to the Standard Chartered Bank account No. 011237322-01 at its Rajagiriya Branch.
f. Despite the said cabinet decision taken at its meeting held on February 10, 2005 to transfer all funds held by your client Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse to the National Disaster Relief Fund, he held on to the said funds illegally and without authority in a private account in a private bank, namely, Standard Chartered Bank Rajagiriya Branch, through a purported corporate account in the name and style of the ‘Helping Hambantota’ fund, which has been illegally opened in violation of Central Bank regulations with regard to the opening of corporate accounts of public bodies.
g. You are also well aware of the fact that once the aforesaid facts were brought to the notice of the public through The Sunday Leader newspaper through its publication dated July 10, 2005, your client surreptitiously transferred the said sum of money which was in the aforementioned fund to the Central Bank, nearly eight months later.
h. It is atrocious that your client, Hon. Mahinda Rajapakse had allowed the said funds to idle for nearly eight months in a private account in blatant violation of a cabinet directive and did not allow the government of Sri Lanka to use the said funds for the benefit of the tsunami victims for relief work as was desired by the respective donors.
i. As you are aware, the Criminal Investigations Department has reported facts to the learned Fort Magistrate under Section 115 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Act No.15 of 1979 and the same matter is due to be called in open court in the Fort Magistrate’s Court on September 28, 2005.
j. The Criminal Investigations Department on the instructions of the Hon. Attorney General of the Republic of Sri Lanka has sought the permission of the learned Fort Magistrate to investigate as to how monies have been spent from the said account and also to question the respective bank managers.
k. We are instructed by our client to state that your letter of demand claiming Rs. 1 billion from my client is malicious and vituperative in that it is only intended to obtain political mileage in a position of desperation on a matter that is already pending before the Magistrate’s Court.
Our client states that according to the said article in the Daily News of September 16, 2005, your client is claiming Rs. 1 billion as damages for the alleged defamation of his character. Our client has further instructed us to state he is amused as to the lack of any basis on which your client’s character has been valued.
On the contrary, our client affirms to the truth of the statements contained in his letter dated September 2, 2005 addressed to Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumara-tunga. Our client further states that the statements of facts contained in the said letter in respect of our client’s conduct demonstrates very clearly that your client has acted in a manner that is indisputably corrupt and unbecoming of a Prime Minister by any civilised standard.
Our client believes that any person who holds high public office and in particular, a person such as your client who holds office as the Prime Minister, by virtue of the trust and confidence reposed in him by the public, owes a solemnly duty to the public to observe the highest standards of honesty, integrity, propriety, rectitude and transparency in all his dealings and conduct himself so as to set an example worthy of emulation by the public. Or client also believes that it is the duty of any newspaper to expose to the public in the public interest any conduct of any such person which deviates from such exemplary standards.
In the aforesaid circumstances, our client would have acted in breach of the duty owed by him to the general public had he, while in possession of the aforesaid facts relating to your client’s corrupt and improper conduct, suppressed them from the public. Or client owes a duty to the public to disseminate the said facts in the public interest.
If, as your client contends, the said publication has caused severe loss and damage to his political career, he has only himself to blame for having conducted himself in such manner and not our client for having exposed his said conduct in the discharge of the duty he owed to the public.
Our client states:
a. That the statements of facts contained in the said letter dated September 2, 2005 addressed to Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga are true in substance and in fact and constitute a matter of public importance which was published for the public benefit.
b. That the opinions expressed therein constitute fair comment made in good faith and without malice on the said facts which are a matter of public interest; and
c. That the said publication (letter dated September 2, 2005) is true and/or bona fide believed by our client to be true and made by him in the discharge of a duty owed by him to the public.
Accordingly, our client is not liable to make any payment whatsoever to your client and no payment whatsoever will be made to your client by our client.
In conclusion, our client has expressly instructed us to inform your client that he welcomes in your client taking the first step towards instituting legal action against our client since he believes that the public interest will be best served by transparency, honesty and integrity which has been completely lacking in the current instant and hopes that this matter would be adjudicated upon by a court of law.
This would then throw light on the despicable conduct of your client in relation to the public funds that were donated by private donors that have been misused by him, when in fact the tsunami victims were placed in a desperate plight with no help being offered through the funds that were held by you illegally for the benefit of your client’s private political agenda.
In any event we are instructed to inform your client that if your client sues our client we shall hereby counter sue you for a sum of Rs. 1,000,000,001 (Rs. 1 billion + Rs. 1), which sum will be used entirely for the benefit of the tsunami victims islandwide, including those affected in Hambantota who have been deprived of their livelihood and other basic needs.
PM wants Bribery Commission probe halted
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse has moved to get the probe on the ‘Helping Hambantota’ complaint before the Bribery Commission stopped.
The Prime Minister has made this move through his lawyer, President’s Counsel D.S. Wijesinghe, The Sunday Leader learns.
The UNP on Tuesday lodged a complaint with the Permanent Commission Investigating Allegations of Bribery and Corruption against Prime Minister Rajapakse, his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and others involved in the ‘Helping Hambantota’ case for alleged corruption.
The complaint lodged by Chairman, UNP Youth Committee and Galle District MP, Gayantha Karunatilleke followed a stay order issued by the Supreme Court preventing the CID continuing with its investigations after the Premier went to court by way of a fundamental rights application.
In his complaint Karunatilleke has said Prime Minister Rajapakse and his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga being public servants have acted with an intention to cause wrongful and unlawful loss to the government and gain a wrongful and unlawful benefit, favour and advantage on the Prime Minister and thereby acted in a corrupt manner.
The Sunday Leader learns that Rajapakse’s lawyers had on Wednesday written to the Bribery Commission seeking an appointment to make representations on the complaint and draw the attention of the commission to the Supreme Court order.
The Ssupreme Court order put a stop to investigations carried out by the CID. The Bribery Commission has its own investigative arm.
Rajapakse’s lawyers argued that in terms of the Supreme Court order the Bribery Commission too is prevented from conducting investigations into the ‘Helping Hambantota’ complaint.
The Sunday Leader also learns the Bribery Commission is yet to make a decision on this issue but has already called for the CID files on the investigations.