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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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CEBEU guns for ex-Chairman Ferdinando

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by Ifham Nizam

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) Friday  said that they are in the process of collecting evidence against former Ceylon Electricity Board Chairman M.M.C. Ferdinando over the recent statement he made on a proposed power project with India.

A senior engineer said that there is a high possibility that the seasoned civil servant dragged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to disrepute because he didn’t see eye to eye with the President.

Eng. Isuru Kasthuriratne, a committee member of the CEBEU and Project Engineer – Mannar Wind Power Project of the Board said they would never allow former chairman to get away easily.

“There are always controversies about him. We would not let this case go. We are in touch with all bodies,” he said.

Kasthuriratne said that very relevant documents were authored and authorized by the former chairman and “he cannot simply say he is not aware of this and that.”

Ferdinando on June 11, tendered his resignation following the controversy he sparked over the planned 500 MW unsolicited wind power project here by India’s Adani group.

“The Adani group at first proposed to sell power to the CEB at 6.50 US cents per unit,” CEBEU President Anil Ranjith told journalists recently.

Despite numerous attempts, the former CEB chairman was not available for comment.

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Dilshan Wirasekara, new CSE Chairman

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The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) announced the appointment of Dilshan Wirasekara as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CSE with effect from Friday (24).

Wirasekara has served on the Board of the CSE since 21st November 2017 and succeeds Dumith Fernando, who steps down as the Chairman after completing his two-year tenure.

Wirasekara is the Director/Chief Executive Officer of one of the leading investment banking firms, First Capital Holdings PLC, offering a diverse range of financial services in Government Securities, Corporate Finance and Advisory, Asset Management and Stock Brokering, which he has been part of since 2013.

He currently is the chairman of the Investment Subcommittee of the CSE and also serves on the Risk and Audit Committee of the CSE as well as the CSE/SEC joint committees on Digitalization and the Central Counter Party System (CCP).

An Investment banker by profession with a career spanning over 26 years, comprising diversified expertise in financial services, including banking, treasury and investment management, capital market strategy, and corporate finance advisory services.

Wirasekara specializes in Asset and Liability Risk Management, having secured the accolade of leading and representing two Sri Lankan companies in winning the International Bank Asset and Liability competition organized annually by the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO), German Investment Corporation (DEG), and Proparco – a subsidiary of the Agence Française de Development (AFD).

Wirasekara is an alumnus of INSEAD, having completed his Executive Professional Education at INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France. He is also an alumnus of AOTS, Tokyo, Japan.

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NCE on Govt’s focus on directing public servants to private sector employment

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National Chamber of Exporters has given the a proposal to the Prime Minister and copied it to the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government on providing employment opportunities to government servants in the private sector companies for a specified period.

The Chamber said in a release: Through Media sources we got to know that The Ministry of Public Administration has appointed a committee to look into the possibility of granting five years of leave to government employees to work in the private sector.

Its states that a seven-member committee has been appointed for this purpose and that the said committee is to submit its report to the Cabinet of Ministers within two weeks.

Sri Lankan exporters are proposing to absorb public sector employees for employment in the sector to relieve the burden of wages and related costs on the Government.

The Export Sector has been able to sustain business and has also reached the pre pandemic level of an average of USD.01 billion export revenue during the period January to April 2022. Before the dawn of the pandemic, exporters were facing difficulties with lack of skilled workers. However, during the pandemic, many exporters were compelled to downsize operations and lay off employees which has created a vacuum in crucial areas of operations.

In current scenario, considering the financial burden and the reportedly excessive workforce attached to the public sector, NCE member exporters are proposing following options in reaching a win-win agreement for both government and the export sector. It is to be noted that labour requirements of exporters vary according to the relevant industry, yet in general all categories could be considered.

1. Any government employee in the permanent carder is eligible to apply for employment in the export sector, excluding from following institutions as they are involved in law enforcement in the country which may lead to conflict of interests.

a) Department of Police

b) Department of Inland Revenue

c) Department of Customs

d) Department of Excise

 2.Government to grant unpaid leave up to a maximum of 59 months.

 3.Employer will offer a “Temporary Labour Contract “to such selected individuals which include: –

 a) Period of contract for 59 months (because on completion of the 60th month, the employee will be eligible for Gratuity.)

b) Their employment will be in accordance with the laws and statutes under which the respective private sector company’s  employees of similar cadre is employed.

c) Leave entitlement as per employer’s policy on leave

d) Employment contract can be terminated with either party giving 30 days’ written notice.

e) In case of maternity leave, a number of stipulated days will be available as unpaid leave.

f)  At the end of 59 months, the government to absorb such individuals back to the public sector employment as per pertinent rules and regulations.

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