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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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Keheliya, seven others further remanded till 28th June

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The Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court today [14] ordered that former Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella and seven others be further remanded until June 28 by over the import of substandard human Immunoglobulin vials.

 

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President launches Public Learning and Education Platform for Sri Lankan Youth

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe officially launched www.publiclearn.lk a new education platform aimed at transforming Sri Lanka’s learning landscape at the Chamber Hall of the Presidential Secretariat, on Thursday [13]

Public Learn is a platform that guides users to free courses from the world’s top universities. .

Emphasizing the importance of adapting to a knowledge-intensive society, the President highlighted Sri Lanka’s strong educational results despite various systemic flaws. He noted that the new platform would enhance the education system’s effectiveness and stressed that Sri Lanka must swiftly advance in digitization to drive the new economic transformation.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted that the Public Learn platform serves as a crucial tool for enabling many Sri Lankans to advance personally and transform their nation. He reflected on Sri Lanka’s historical learning journey in three phases: first, during the era of Arahath Mahinda and the Pirivena system; second, with the introduction of the British public school system; and now, with the advent of digital education platforms like Public Learn, marking the third phase. He emphasized the importance of leveraging digital technology and knowledge to propel Sri Lanka forward in the digital economy, underscoring the need for continuous adaptation and innovation.

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Easter Sunday carnage: ‘Another probe nothing but an exercise in futility’

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Rev. Father Cyril Gamini

‘Implement PCoI recommendations at least now’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Catholic Church yesterday (14) reiterated its longstanding demand that the recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into 2019 Easter Sunday attacks be implemented.

Rev. Father Cyril Gamini Fernando said so when The Island sought the Catholic Church’s reaction to the appointment by President Ranil Wickremesinghe a new committee of inquiry to investigate the actions and responses of the country’s intelligence and security authorities following the intelligence warning received from India.

The committee is headed by retired Judge Ms. A. N. J. de Alwis. Rev. Fernando said that the government should implement the recommendations made by the PCoI headed by Supreme Court judge Janak de Silva. He said another inquiry would be nothing but an exercise in futility as the PCoI conducted an in-depth investigation into the Easter attacks, including the failure on the part of the intelligence apparatus to act on foreign intelligence as well neutralise the growing threat posed by extremist elements.

Rev. Fr. Fernando questioned the rationale behind re-examining the conduct of State Intelligence Service (SIS) and Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) as the Supreme Court in January last year ordered Senior DIG Nilantha Jayewardena and retired DIG Sisira Mendis, who headed the SIS and functioned as CNI, respectively, to pay compensation to the tune of Rs 75 mn and Rs 10 mn.

“What is there to investigate again?” Rev Fernando asked, urging the government to go through the PCoI recommendations in respect of politicians and security officials.

In addition to the PCoI report, the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee and a Special Investigation Committee of three members appointed by the then President Maithriapla Sirisena probed the Easter carnage, Rev Fernando said, adding that if those in parliament were still interested in justice and fair play should look into that matter.

Rev. Fernando urged the government to examine how successive leaders had responded to PCoI findings. When President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a committee consisting of six MPs to look into the PCoI report and its findings soon after justice Janak de Silva handed over his report on Feb 1, 2021 it became clear that the powers that be would resort to old tactics. Nearly two years after President Rajapaksa’s ouster, the situation remained the same, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the Church wouldn’t give up its fight for justice.

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