Sri Lanka minister says did not know apartment lease was paid by Perpetual

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ex-finance minister Ravi Karunanayake said he did not know Perpetual Treasuries group paid the lease of an apartment he stayed for several months and his wife and family did the negotiations.

Karunanayake, now foreign minister, was giving evidence before a Presidential commission inquiring into a series of alleged securities frauds involving Perpetual Treasuries, a firm connected to Arjun Aloysius son-in-law of then Central Bank Governor Arjun Mahendran.

Karunanayake said his family moved into a unit in Colombo’s Monarch apartments, when his house near the parliament was being renovated. The apartment belonged to Anika Wijaysuria, daughter of Nahil Wijesuriya who were family friends.

He did not know that a lease was executed with Walt and Row, a firm connected to Arjun Aloysius, which paid a 1.45 million rupee a month lease. All the negotiations were done by his wife and family, and he had no knowledge.

State Counsel asked whether Karunanayake was aware that when his wife inspected the apartment, Arjun Aloysius was summoned to the apartment and negotiated the lease with Wijayasuriya.
   
Karunanayake said he was not aware.

Commissioner Prasanna Jayawardene asked whether Karunanayake accepted that it was not correct to lease the apartment through a Perpetual group company when as finance minister he was connected to bonds, capital markets and excise matters relating to distilleries.

Karunanayake accepted that it would not be correct, if he knew.

He got to know about the lease when Mahindananda Aluthgamage, an opposition legislator had brought it up in parliament, Karunanayake said.

He said the money was re-imbursed by the family to Perpetual group and could produce the receipts.

The apartment was leased through Perpetual group because Anika Wijayasuriya did not want to lease an apartment to a politician, he said.

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State counsel interjected to say that Wijayasuriya, had said that she would have leased it directly if such a request was made.

Karunanayake said Global Transport and Logistics, a firm originally founded by him which had later bought the apartment for 165 million rupees, was run by his family and the board. He had resigned in January 2015, and he had no need to know what happened there.

The finance manager had told the commission that cash brought by the chairman in two piles and kept in a safe had been used to pay for the apartment.

Karunanayake said there was no need for any know-your-customer cautions since, the finance manager already knew who the chairman L Kanthan was.

Kanthan earned money with consultancy work and was a director of several companies, the commission was told.

Karunanayake said he could not make sense of several text messages that were read out to him, which were taken from a phone belonging to Aloysius, which were mentioned to have been copied to him.

The text messages made references to getting a copy monetary board decision, a meeting involving a ‘PPP’ unit and US Treasury officials. (Colombo/July02/2017)
 

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