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Easter Sunday probe: CB not informed of Rs 4 bn Hizbullah et al received from overseas

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Two current accounts, operated by former Eastern Province Governor M. L. A. M. Hizbullah and others at the Bank of Ceylon (BoC) branch at Kollupitiya, had received foreign funding close to Rs. 4 billion within three years, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the Easter Sunday attacks was informed yesterday.

It was also revealed that the BoC had not informed the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) of those transactions although it was required to do so in respect of foreign transactions over one million rupees.

Ms I.C.K. Kannangara, former Manager of the BoC Kollupitiya branch, told the PCoI that foreign funds had been sent the two accounts from 2016 to 2019.

Kannangara said that one account, for Sri Lanka Hira Foundation had received Rs. 313,128,281.59. The funds had been received in 12 separate transactions between March 11, 2016 and April 24, 2019. While a significant portion of the funds came from Ali Abdullah Al Juffali inheritance, Rs. 284.8 million, the rest of the funding came from Siddique and Diana Osmond and Credential Limited from London. Al Juffali family is one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth of $19.8 billion.

Hizbullah, Abdul Samsudeen and Faleel Mohommad operated this account, opened on August 18, 1993 in the name of a social service organisation. However it was only on September 09, 1993 that Sri Lanka Hira Foundation had been certified by the Department of Social Services. Kannangara responding to a question posed by the Commissioners admitted that allowing the foundation to open a bank account without the proper registration was irregular.

The Batticaloa Campus Private Limited had received Rs. 3.65 billion from Ali Abdullah Al Juffali inheritance between March 04, 2016 and June 07, 2017, the commission was informed.

The funds had been credited on seven separate occasions. The dates and details of these transactions are as follows: Rs. 695.8 million on March 04, 2016, Rs. 546.1 million on May 05, 2016, Rs. 526.9 million on August  03, 2016, Rs. 424.6 million on October  05, 2016, Rs. 541.4 million on an undisclosed date, Rs. 458 million on March  04, 2017 and Rs. 450.2 million on June 07, 2017.

Commissioners then asked Kannangara if she had been aware of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) rule making mandatory for financial institutions to inform the CBSL’s Financial Intelligence Unit of Sri Lanka (FIU) if they received a cash transactions and/or electronic funds transfers of an amount exceeding rupees one million (Rs. 1,000,000), or its equivalent in any foreign currency. Kannangara answered in the affirmative.

“In this case a number of transactions over one million rupees have taken place, but you inform the FIU?” the Senior State Counsel leading the evidence asked

Kannangara said that it was the Chief Compliance Officer of BoC who usually contacted the FIU. The Kollupitiya Branch had already identified the two accounts as high risk accounts, the witness said.

Kannangara said: “There were significant transactions and in 2016 and 2017, we informed the Chief Compliance Officer of BoC that special attention must be paid. The Chief Compliance Officer asked us to submit all documents and we did. However, on both occasions, the Headquarters decided that these accounts are not suspicious.”

Therefore, BoC had not reported the accounts to the FIU of CBSL before the Easter Sunday attacks, she said.

“When you spoke to the Chief Compliance Officer about these accounts, were the name of a particular person mentioned?” a Commissioner asked the witness.

Kannangara said: “Yes, Hizbullah’s name was mentioned. He was a Governor at that time.”

A commissioner asked, “Did that play a role in deciding that the accounts were not suspicious? How did you know that the money was being used to build a campus?”

“We saw media reports,” she said. The witness is to provide information on three more bank accounts operated by Hizbullah at the BoC Colpetty Branch.



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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