- Questionnaire forwarded to PM’s office expecting an affidavit
- PM may be called to testify if needed or further questions will be sent seeking clarification
- Hearings formally concluded for now
- AG dept seeks further testimony from 20 witnesses including PM
- DSG Kodagoda calls PTL a criminal organisation
- Kodagoda points to more evidence being unearthed
- Says if such evidence is not presented, the Commission’s report will be a half-baked cake
By Himal Kotelawala
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the controversial bond issuance concluded its hearings yesterday, noting that additional hearings may be held if needed, and witnesses including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called in the event further testimony is required.
Making a statement at the conclusion of yesterday’s proceedings, Chairman of the Commission Justice K. T. Chitrasiri said that the Commission had forwarded a questionnaire to the Prime Minister’s Office expecting a response in the form of an affidavit.
“If required, a list of further questions will be forwarded to the Prime Minister. Upon receipt of the affidavit, the Commission of Inquiry will peruse its contents and, if necessary, request the Prime Minister to attend a hearing of the Commission of Inquiry to give evidence or request the Prime Minister to provide further clarification, as this Commission of Inquiry considers necessary,” said Justice Chitrasiri.
If any further hearing is to be held, he added, a notice to such effect will be displayed at the Office of the Commission of Inquiry before the day of any such hearing.
Speaking on behalf of the officers of the Attorney General’s Department assisting the Commission, Senior Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera said that the job is not yet over for his team of counsels. de Livera referred to a list of 20 additional witnesses dated 10 October, some of whom have already testified, and requested the Commission to allow the AG Department to call them in order to realise its mandate.
The Prime Minister is also listed as a material witness, said the ASG, adding that his team had given reasons in their document as to why the PM ought to be called to testify.
Some interviews are already underway, he said, expressing the AG department’s desire for an opportunity to present more evidence.
Commissioner Justice Prasanna Jayawardena assured de Livera that in the event material does come up, the Commission will definitely have another hearing.
Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda, making some closing remarks said, the AG department was in the process of unearthing some more material through data extracted from telephones.
“If we don’t get that opportunity, it will be a half baked cake,” said Kodagoda, adding that his team would like the President and the public to receive a full baked cake in the form of the report.
Recalling that he was shouted down by attorneys representing Perpetual Treasuries (Pvt) Ltd (PTL) for calling it a criminal organisation several months ago, DSG Kodagoda submitted to the Commission that, as at yesterday, the AG department had placed before this Commission cogent evidence in support of the fact that PTL is a criminal organisation in that they were engaged in insider dealing, unlawful and inappropriate contacts with persons in authority including certain politicians and have bribed informants.
The full statement made by Justice Chitrasiri is as follows:
The recording of evidence before this Commission of Inquiry commenced on 21st February 2017. All hearings have been held in public. There have been 120 days on which hearings were held. 63 witnesses have given evidence. The evidence of some witnesses spanned several days. Over 450 documents have been produced in evidence, with several of these documents consisting of a large number of pages.
In the event that, after today, any new material is identified and the Commissioners are of the view that, such new material must be placed before this Commission of Inquiry as formal evidence, a further hearing will be held.
Subject to that, the Commission of Inquiry has now completed the hearing of evidence, except for recording the evidence of the Prime Minister, if it is required.
In that regard, we consider it relevant to state that, the Commission of Inquiry has previously forwarded a list of questions, in the nature of interrogatories, to the Prime Minister and has requested the Prime Minister to provide his answers, by way of an affidavit. If required, a list of further questions will be forwarded to the Prime Minister. Upon receipt of the affidavit, the Commission of Inquiry will peruse its contents and, if necessary, request the Prime Minister to attend a hearing of the Commission of Inquiry to give evidence or request the Prime Minister to provide further clarification, as this Commission of Inquiry considers necessary.
If any further hearing is to be held, a notice to such effect will be displayed at the Office of the Commission of Inquiry before the day of any such hearing.
The Commissioners now have, before us, the task of carefully studying and analyzing all the oral and documentary evidence that has been presented and preparing our Report to be submitted to the President. This will be a complex, arduous and time consuming exercise. Therefore, we will be compelled to request His Excellency to extend the warrant issued to the Commission of Inquiry which, at present, is due to end on 27th October 2017.
In the meantime, counsel who have appeared before the Commission of Inquiry are given the opportunity to tender their written submissions, if any, on or before 25th October 2017. In the event the warrant issued to the Commission of Inquiry is extended before that date, any written submissions may be tendered within a further week from 25th October 2017.
The Commissioners wish to thank the team of officers of the Attorney General’s Department, who assisted the Commission of Inquiry. They have worked long hours and have demonstrated sustained dedication to their task of presenting evidence, which had to be gathered from a very large amount of documents and after consultations with many persons. The Commissioners deeply appreciate their efforts and thank these officers.
The Commissioners wish to thank learned counsel who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry on behalf of persons who wished to be represented under and in terms of section 16 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. The Commissioners appreciate the cooperation given by these counsel to the Commission of Inquiry in completing the time consuming and often difficult task of conducting these proceedings.
The Commissioners wish to thank the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department who carried out investigations and recorded the statements of witnesses and other persons. They have made a significant and valuable contribution to the efforts of the Commission of Inquiry.
Finally, the Commissioners wish to place on record our gratitude to Mr. S. Udugamasuriya, Attorney-at-Law, who has functioned as the Secretary of this Commission of Inquiry and to all the members of the Staff of this Commission of Inquiry for their cooperation and hard work, which has enabled this Commission of Inquiry to function.
Aloysius’ PA claims ignorance; clueless on identities of RK and AM in texts
Perpetual Treasuries (Pvt) Ltd (PTL) Former Director Arjun Aloysius’ personal assistant Steve Samuel testifying before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the controversial bond issuance yesterday claimed to not know who the ‘RK’ and ‘AM’ referred to in text messages sent from his own phone might’ve been.
The witness was questioned at length by Senior State Counsel Dr. Avanthi Perera who brought to his attention a number of text messages and emails sent by him to Aloysius from November 2016.
The texts are as follows:
“Update: Chairman, also meeting with Alex Lowel at 7.30pm today.” – Sent on 28 November 2016
The witness agreed that it was sent by him to Aloysius.
“Reminder: To request Hon PM and RK to get a copy of the Monetary Board meeting/papers need to be submitted today.” – Sent on the same day.
Samuel claimed he received a call, from whom he could not recall, on the general line of PTL, whence he took down the message and texted it to his boss. He claimed ignorance on the identities of ‘Hon PM’ and ‘RK,’ insisting that he wrote down abbreviations as instructed and sent it verbatim to Aloysius.
“GM, Chairman. Hope you had a very good meeting with RK. Just update me when you and I can meet when you leave tonight. Home or at office.”
Samuel: Doesn’t know RK is.
Responding to a question by Commissioner Justice Jayawardena, the witness said: “I don’t know. He doesn’t tell me about his meetings. I have never gone to any of his meetings. I don’t sit in his office.”
“Steve, please remind me to talk to RK on two matters when I meet him tomorrow. 1. PPP unit setup and 2. meeting with PM tomorrow at 4 with US treasury.”
Samuel maintains he does now know who RK or PM might be. Nor does he know what PPP stands for.
It was pointed out to the witness at this point that in a statement given to the police, he had said he wasn’t sure, but perhaps the two acronyms had perhaps referred to the Prime Minister and Former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake but he did not know”
He responded that he cannot accept that, as nobody had told him that ‘Hon PM’ is the ‘Honourable Prime Minister.’
Aloysius is very erratic and reads fast, said Samuel, adding that his job was to simply take down the messages, including acronyms, read out to him.
A message sent on 06 November 2016, according to the Attorney General’s Department reads: “Reminder: Follow up meeting with Ravi Karunanayake at 9am.”
Samuel again claimed that he could not acknowledge that RK was the same person.
A text sent on 08 November: “Reminder: Next meeting at 7am with Ravi K,” followed by “Ravi K tonight” the next day.
A message sent on 17 November 2016 read: “Reminder: Meeting with RK at 8.30pm”
Samuel claimed ignorance on what the meetings were about.
Two more messages said: “Yes, I do have it on my notes for today. RK/to-do list,” and”Also we have the A Mahendran to-do list.”
Samuel claimed that A Mahendran referes to Anjali Mahendran, Former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s daughter. According to Samuel, he always referred to her, in writing, as A. Mahendran.
Another text: “Chairman, awaiting an update on to-do list for Arjuna M and RK.”
To this, Samuel responded that he wouldn’t know who Arjuna was in this case, as he wasn’t told and since he didn’t do any correspondence for the Former Governor.
“Legal letter to be delivered to Hon PM’s office.” – Message sent on 22 November 2016
Once again, Samuel said he had no idea who PM was or what ‘Hon’ meant.
Other messages sent in January 2017, according to Dr. Perera, are as follows:
“Reminder: Meeting at 10pm with RK and AM to-do list will be sent home”
“I’m just leaving office. I’m going to your flower road residence to deliver both AM/RK files and will try to catch Dilshad at the Ministry”
“Please place the note pertaining to your RK file”
“Also by any chance did you manage to locate this old RK file?”
Samuel claimed he had not been exposed to such files.
“Just saw you at the Ministry dashing into the elevator. Have a great meeting” – sent on January 03, followed by, on the same day,
“Good luck with RK meeting and I hope Mr. Arjuna has a good meeting too this evening.”
Samuel denied knowing who he had referred to as ‘Mr. Arjuna’. Whatever he is told, he said, he takes down.
“I saw Gov Kumaraswami and Lasantha at the Ministry waiting for a meeting with RK.”
“Then I saw Mr. Arjuna getting into the lift when I was stepping out at the ground floor.”
“As per Dilshad, there is no London trip scheduled anywhere.”
The witness was unsure about the details.
Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda at this point accused the witness of lying before the Commission, to which Justice Jayawardena said it was clear that Samuel knew who exactly he was talking about.
The Commission will take appropriate steps at that stage, he added.
However, Samuel insisted that he was not lying.
“I’m telling you all I know. I’ve acknowledged what I don’t know,” he said.
Three other messages referring to a Saman Indika Kumara were read out to the witness, but he denied knowing anything about him.
Justice Jayawardena then pointed out that Former Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Chief Dealer Saman Kumara had figured prominently in the proceedings and asked the witness if he had not heard of him.
The witness claimed to not read the papers, but said: “I promise you, I didn’t know.”
He further said that he did not sit in the same office as Aloysius.
An email sent on 29 March 2017 read: “Meeting boss/RK/reminder – proposed auction for the week.”
Samuel claimed ignorance on the auction, and added that he had never been in the trade room of PTL and that he was not involved in treasury bond related activities of the company.
Attorney-at-law Chanaka de Silva, representing Former Governor Arjuna Mahendran referring to a message, read: The Gov CBSL wants to talk to you. Please call and speak to Mercy to transfer the call.
Samuel said he had not sent that particular message. de Silva pointed out that it was whoever the Governor was on that date that had wanted to meet Aloysius.
“Reminder: Meeting with Gov CB at 3.30pm” – another message sent on 17 November, was again referring to the Governor on that day, said de Silva.
Appearing for Samuel, Attorney-at-law Jeewantha Jayatillake pointed to a message sent on 04 January: “Ravi Krishnamoorthy at 6.30pm.”
The lawyer asked the witness if Krishnamoorthy’s initials could not be RK.
The witness agreed, and reiterated that he had never maintained files under the headings AM and RK. (HK)