Theft of Taipei bank funds:
Absence of diplomatic ties won’t undermine Lanka-Taiwan cooperation

Litro chairman, retired Maj Gen’s son remanded till Oct 25
Both suspects carried UK passports
Two Indian suspects flee to Dubai



by Shamindra Ferdinando


The government will fully cooperate with Taiwan’s ongoing inquiry into the theft of money from Taiwan Far Eastern International Bank, whose computer system was hacked to enable the transfer of USD 60 mn from customers to accounts in the US, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.


Sri Lanka has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan,


The headquarters branch of the Bank of Ceylon (BoC) has received funds from Taiwan.


An authoritative government official said so when The Island asked him whether the government would collaborate with Taiwan because of longstanding ‘One China’ policy. Sri Lanka doesn’t recognise Taiwan as a country or allow Dalai Lama (of Tibet) to pay homage to Dalada Maligawa.


The official emphasised that assisting Taiwan wouldn’t in anyway clash with ‘One China’ policy.


Authoritative sources said that law enforcement authorities of Sri Lanka and their Taiwanese counterparts were in touch.


Responding to query, the official said that the country could face serious trouble unless stringent action was taken.


Asked whether Sri Lanka would give Taiwanese investigators access to Chairman of Litro Gas Shalila Moonasinghe and Janaka Chaminda Nammuni remanded in connection with the money laundering case, another senior official told The Island that in criminal cases countries cooperate irrespective of diplomatic ties. The official said that it would be too premature to consider extradition.


Moonasinghe has also the leader of the New Democratic Front (NDF) since 2009. The NDF is a constituent member of the UNP-led ruling coalition.


Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Central Bank H. Amaratunga yesterday told The Island that in case of suspicious transactions, local banks had to alert his unit. Asked whether the FIU had initiated an investigation, Amaratunga said the CID was inquiring into the international crime. He said he couldn’t elaborate as investigations were on.


Taiwan reported the hacking several days ago.


Chairman of the Bank of Ceylon (BoC) Ronald C Perera, PC, wasn’t available for comment as the BoC board was meeting yesterday.


Colombo Fort Magistrate yesterday re-remanded Shalila Moonasinghe and Janaka Chaminda Nammuni till Oct 25. Nammuni, son of retired Maj. Gen. Jaliya Nammuni was the first of the two suspects to be arrested in Colombo. Jaliya Nammuni held the post of Deputy Chief of Staff at the time he retired.


Close on the heels of them being re-remanded, the government removed Moonasinghe from the post of Chairman, Litro Gas. The Government owned Litro Gas is Sri Lanka’s largest supplier of LPG. On Tuesday its management issued a statement denying any knowledge or involvement in Moonasinghe’s clandestine project.


A spokesperson for the National Election Commission (NEC) yesterday told The Island that it couldn’t intervene in the Moonasinghe’s case though he currently held the post of Leader (Chairman) of the NDF, the breakaway faction of the Democratic United National Front (DUNF) formed by the late Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake during Ranasinghe Premadasa’s presidency.


Premadasa was assassinated by the LTTE on May Day 1993.


UNP backed Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena contested presidential polls in 2010 and 2015 on the NDF ticket under the swan symbol.


Fonseka backed by the JVP contested 2010 General election under swan symbol. Fonseka was elected to parliament on the NDF ticket along with two other MPs. The NDF also received two National List slots.


The NEC official explained that any person found guilty of an offence that warranted a two-year jail term and served a six month term wouldn’t able to either contest or exercise franchise for a period of seven years.


The Island also sought an explanation from the Indian High Commission as regards the alleged involvement of two Indian nationals in the hacking of a Taiwanese commercial bank and siphoning off money from its customers’ accounts.


According to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), two Indians, who had been allegedly involved with Moonasinghe and Nammuni left Colombo for Dubai on Oct 8.


The CID arrested Nammuni on Oct 7 and Moonasinghe surrendered to police on Oct 9.


The BoC provided video footage of Nammuni and Moonasinghe at the bank to withdraw money.


Sri Lanka has a bilateral arrangement with India under which the former can secure assistance to probe Taiwan money laundering case. The Island learns that so far Sri Lanka hadn’t submitted a request in this regard to India.


Sources said the amount transferred to Colombo seemed to be relatively small and those who had been involved in the operation were an international gang.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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