Sri Lanka’s graft buster faces FCID probe

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s self-styled good governance activist and anti-graft campaigner Nihal Sri Ameresekere is under investigation for defaulting LKR 100 million to a state bank, police said Friday.

Formal complaints had been made with the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) of the police as well as the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC).

Asked for his reaction, Ameresekere did not elaborate but in an e-mail to EconomyNext said: “There are legally binding contractual agreements.”

Ameresekere had been an accountant of Cornel Perera, the man who promoted the Colombo Hilton project, but later became a share holder of the Hotel Developers Lanka Limited, the company which owns the Hilton hotel building.

Just one month before the presidential elections in January this year, Ameresekere writes to the Bank of Ceylon and  requests a LKR 100 million overdraft facility within 24 hours.

"This Overdraft Facility will be regularised before the period of one month, with the release of certain monies being paid to me by the Treasury, which is now in final processing stage," Ameresekere has told the BOC on December 9, 2014.

In fairness, the BOC’s general manager D. M. Gunasekera had tried to verify the claim and the deputy secretary to the treasury, S. R. Attygalle (who is still holding that post) had confirmed that a "final claim" of Ameresekere will be credited to his BOC account.

Incidentally, Ameresekere had opened that current account with the BOC less than a month earlier and was now going to be the beneficiary of a LKR 100 million over draft within 24 hours of requesting it.

Police and the anti-graft commission has been told that Ameresekere is in default and the bank has made no known attempt to recover the dues from a man who claims to be a good governance activist.

In the meantime, the government appointed competent authority for HDL, the Hilton hotel property owning company, had made it clear that no money was due to Ameresekere and goes as far as to warn Attygalle against any such move.

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It is not clear why Attygalle, a public servant who was closely associated with former treasury secretary P. B. Jayasundera, went out on a limb to help Ameresekere secure LKR 100 million OD which he has not repaid, according to the complaint to the FCID and the CIABOC.

The competent authority running Hotel Developers, wrote Attygalle querying a letter Ameresekere had purportedly  written Lalith Weeratunga, the then secretary to president Mahinda Rajapaksa.  It appears that the LKR 100 million facility to Ameresekere follows that letter to Weeratunga, contents of which were not known to the Competent Authority.

Ameresekere had been a controversial intermediary in the scandal-ridden Colombo Hilton project where there had been allegations that contractors had not built the agreed number of floors and were in breach of their contractual obligations.

The competent authority had noted that Ameresekere if at all should be penalised and not rewarded for his role in the entire saga.

In fact, Attygalle had written to the BOC on December 15, 2014 saying the "Treasury has no objection in granting an advance of Rs. 100 Mn to Mr. Amarasekera (sic) in view of the proposed final settlement in lieu of the claims with respect to HDL… The final claim amount will be remitted to you upon the finalization of the claims."

Attygalle failed to mention what the settlement was or even suggest an approximate figure or a time line.

The complainant noted that Ameresekere had already been paid LKR seven million for "professional input" for what he had done as a litigant in the controversy. Even that payment is now disputed. The new government has made Ameresekere’s daughter a director of Hotel Developers. (COLOMBO, Dec 11, 2015)
 

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