‘I knew nothing’

Published : 8:29 am  August 3, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 

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By Shehan Chamika Silva
Former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake yesterday explained that he was unaware about the matters relating to the Penthouse rental and the subsequent purchase, as they were conducted through a company, in which his wife and daughter were directors and they had taken decisions excluding him.  Untitled-2

He also said that he did not know until accusations arose in Parliament that he was occupying an apartment which was rented by Aloysius’ firm.
 
It was earlier revealed that Former Finance Minister, Ravi Karunanayake and his family occupied a Penthouse at the Monarch Residencies for eight months on lease basis and the lease amount, Rs. 1.45 million per month, was paid by Arjun Aloysius.
 
Subsequently the penthouse had been purchased for Rs. 165 million by Global Transportation and Logistics Pvt Ltd (GTL), in which Ravi Karunanayake’s wife Mela and daughter Onella were directors.
 
When the Minister was questioned he said it was his Family who had spoken to owner, Anika Wijesuriya and he had no communication with even Anika’s brother in finding a house on lease basis.
 
He said his wife, Mela Karunanayake and Daughter, Onella Karunanayake were dealing with the lease matter.
According to him, the Minister’s family was in need of a house because their Kotte residence was under renovation and due to the distance to Colombo City.
 
He said his family moved to the Penthouse in February 2016, and he had assumed that his family had dealt the lease with Ms. Anika and had paid the rental.
 
He said it was only after the accusation made by Mahindananda Aluthgamage in Parliament he got to know about the issue and subsequently asked it from his family.
 
When questioned about whether he was aware that a company called Walt and Row, in which Arjun Aloysius and his father were directors, had obtained the Penthouse on rent, he said he was unaware about it.
 
He said also that he was unaware that whether his wife was initially inspecting the Penthouse in the presence of Aloysius. The Minister was of the view that he knew about Ms. Anika Wijesuriya’s father before and on that basis his family informed that they were going to rent an apartment belonging to Ms. Anika.
 
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When questioned then why the Minister’s family did not enter into a lease agreement with Anika directly, he said his family informed him that Ms. Anika was reluctant to rent the apartment to a politician and thereby Ms. Anika had entered into a lease agreement with Walt and Row Company.
 
He said his family had paid the rental payments to that company instead of paying it to Anika directly. He said the payments were paid to the accountant of that company and can be proven.
 
Mr. Karunanayake repeatedly said that he was unaware about the Company named Walt and Row, which was the company Aloysius and his father headed.
 
However, the Minister said subsequently his family had told him that they bought the Penthouse through Global Transportation and Logistics Pvt. Ltd.
 
When questioned about the amount at which it was bought he said it was irrelevant to him since the GTL was operated by his wife and daughter independently from him even though he was a director of it prior to January 2015.
 
A heated argument began when Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera asked the witness that “There is a limit to lying”. The witness said he was testifying under oath so it was the truth.
 
The ASG was of the view that as the husband of the family he should have inquired the matter.
 
Subsequently, PCoI Commissioner, Justice Prasanna Jayawardena questioned the witness about the close relationship with his family members. And the witness said they were a very close family.
 
When Justice Jayawardena asked why he was not informed about the rental matter for few months, the witness said he had not questioned about it.
 
“If you had known that you were occupying an apartment rented to Arjun Aloysius who is involved in bond transactions, then would you have gone there because such an act would be a conflict of interest as the Finance Minster to do so?” Justice Jayawardena asked.
Minister Ravi Karunanayake said he would not have done that if he knew it.
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The rent amount for all months was Rs. 12.5 million.
 
The Justice asked, “Where did you get the Money to pay such rental?”. 
 
The Minister said it was from the money of his daughter and wife.
 
He said the purchase was also possible because the GTL was having large amounts of assets.
 
It was earlier revealed in the commission that the Rs. 16.5 million initial payment and thereafter to pay monthly loan installment of Rs. 11 million for the purchase of the controversial Monarch Residency Penthouse by the GTL owned by Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s family.
The GTLPL has two major share holders, 30% acquired by a foreign company headed by the Chairman of the GTLPL and 70% owned by a company called OSM Holdings, in which Mrs. Mela and Ms Onella Karunanayake are directors.
 
Referring to the evidence given earlier by Chief Financial Officer Chinnaih of GTL Company, Justice Jayawardena asked the witness about the Rs. 145 million that was brought in by the GTL chairman Lakshmi Kanthan.
 
“I perused documents but I see no entry no transactions reflected in GTL accounts over that money” justice said.
It was said that the Rs. 16.5 million initial payment and thereafter the monthly loan installment of Rs. 11 million was paid from the money placed in the safe by the chairman of GTL.
 
The Minister said that when he was director of that Company the Chairman had lot of consultations and he was used to bring the cash in.
 
“You are well aware of money laundering because there should be some sort of entry,” Justice Jayawardena asked.
 
The witness said according to his knowledge the information relating to such entries are depicted as the advance payments and he also ascertained they were not brought from abroad but local money.
 
Thereafter, Justice Jayawardena again asked about the knowledge of the witness over the controversial penthouse purchase, he said he was unaware about the lease or the purchase of the GTL initially.
 
When the Justice asked whether his family had known about the involvement of Aloysius and how it would affect the Minister and his duties, the witness said his family would not have known it.
 
Again the Justice said, “We are anxious about the fact whether you were aware or not”, he said “I knew nothing about the matter until it came to light in the Parliament last July”.
 
In the mean time, the Minister also pointed some possible errors in the deed saying that his apartment was not 4,000 square feet but about 2,000 sqft. 
 
The Commission said it has no concern about the size of it but the principles of the inquiry. However if needed will take appropriate steps to check its truth.
 
Finally, addressing the Commission the witness said that he was willing to testify before the Commission without any hesitation since his reputation has been tarnished by the media recently over the matter. Justice Jayawardene concluding the proceedings yesterday said that “We are finding the truth with no fear or favour to individual recognition.” 


 

8600 page report on Aloysius’ phone data presented to Commission

 

By Shehan Chamika Silva
Additional Solicitor General Dappuala de Livera and Yasantha Kodagoda yesterday produced a report containing 8,600 pages relating to the data extracted from Perpetual Treasuries head Arjuna Aloysius’ mobile phone. 

When questioned about the content of messages, Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who appeared before the Commission said he had no knowledge of Aloysius’ text messages referring to ‘Ravi K’. The ASG asked questions referring ten messages extracted from Aloysius phone, which also alleged to have referred to Minister Karunanayake. There were nine incoming messages and one out going message in which he was referred to. The AG’s Department said several text messages in the database refer to an individual called ‘Ravi K’.


The witness however said that he had no knowledge about those messages received and sent by Aloysius and he also said he doesn’t know about the content of them.


 

 

Undated letter was an “oversight”: Ravi

By Shehan Chamika Silva
Minister Ravi Karunanayake said that the undated letter, sent to the then Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran was “completely an oversight.” He said that he had not indicated the date and the reference due to an oversight.

He said that he had not indicated the date and the reference due to an oversight.


When Additional Solicitor General wanted to know the reason as to the origin of such a letter the Minister explained the situation he had as the Finance Minister in the beginning of the 2015. He said that there was an unaccounted debt in balance and an outstanding repayment amounting Rs. 100 billion, when they assumed duties as the new Government in 2015.


The witness said there was a meeting on February 26, 2015 with Mr. Malik Samarawickrama and Kabir Hashim over the fund requirement of Rs. 75 billion for road development projects.


The meeting was held prior to the controversial bond auction that took place on February 27, 2015.


When questioned he confirmed that there was no sudden need to raise money in February but the funds were required for the payments in RDA projects. The witness said Mr. Mahendran requested him to send a letter relating to what happened at the February 26, 2015 meeting between the three ministers and thereby he had sent the letter in May 2016.This letter contained the idea that it was decided at the meeting on the fund requirement of the Government for Rs 75 billion.The ASG questioned the witness as to why there was no date or reference in the letter. The witness said it was an oversight. Then the ASG asked whether there was a copy or corresponding Ministry’s file relating to the letter. The witness said he forwarded the letter in response to a request made by Mr. Mahendran.  The ASG repeatedly questioned him as to why he had not mentioned the person who requested the letter. The ASG was of the view that this letter was created very recently because when it was produced before the PCoI, the letter was apparently new and “crisp.” However, the witness denied the ASG’s stance and maintained what he said.  When the ASG was attempting to question further as to how the letter originated, the Commission said it was a waste of time because the witness has already made his stance before the Commission.
However, there was a heated argument thereafter between the Commission and the ASG over the relevancy of further questioning on the matter. 


 

Travel dates of Aloysius and Ravi to Singapore coincide: ASG

By Shehan Chamika Silva
Referring into the relationship between Arjun Aloysius and Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera yesterday submitted travel details pertaining to Aloysius and the Minister and said that there were 13 visits to Singapore by both with coinciding dates.

The ASG produced the travel details relating to the time period between September 2016 and April 2017.


When questioned whether he had met Aloysius in Singapore, the Minister said he had met Aloysius there on a few occasions.
The Minister said he met Aloysius at the Finance Asia Conference, which was sponsored by the Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. and on the Christmas Day of 2016. The Minister said he did not travel to Singapore to meet Aloysius. The ASG referring to one travel detail questioned the witness whether he and Aloysius had travelled together to Singapore. The witness said he cannot recall such 
an instance.


However, after the examination conducted by President’s Counsel Anuja Premaratne, who appeared for Aloysius, it was explained to the commission that even though they were in the same flight, their destinations were different.


Justice Prasanna Jayawardena asked the witness, whether he had travelled to Singapore to meet Aloysius, the Minister said he did not.

 

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