Thico scam draws attention of Currency Board, abuse of banking system under scrutiny – The Island

One of the alleged masterminds had been part of Prez’s delegation to Libya in 2009

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Finance Ministry Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena said yesterday (07) that the ongoing investigation into Thico’s alleged scam had caught the attention of the Central Bank and the Monetary Council.

Siriwardena, one of the five members of the Monetary Council, said the ongoing issues would be dealt with appropriately. The Monetary Board is composed of Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe (Chairman of the Board), Dr. Ranee Jayamaha, Sanjiva Jayawardena, PC, and Nihal Fonseka.

The finance secretary said it when The Island raised alleged abuse of the banking system by the World Trade Center (WTC)-based Thico group of companies over a period of time.

The official said that although periodic warnings were issued, some people continued to be deceived by high interest rates and other benefits.

Former Governor of Western Province (January-June 2019) Azath Salley said The Island that he invested Rs 80 mn and one of his close collaborators Rs 226 mn in Thico Group of Companies led by Thilini Priyamali only on the assurance given by Janaki Siriwardena, CEO and director of The One Transworks Square project intended to build 92 commercial floors and residential tower.

One Transworks Square announced at the end of February 2019 the launch of phase II of the project (JW Marriott Hotel & Residences). Senior management said the second phase would be completed in two and a half years.

Salley stressed that he had absolutely no reason to have doubts about the investments because the influential businesswoman had been known to him since 2002. According to Sally, the leader of the National Unity Alliance (NUA) formerly led by Ms. Ferial Ashraff, when they first met, he was Deputy Mayor of the UNP-led Colombo City Council (CMC).

Responding to another question, Salley said that when the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) recorded his statement about the investment gone wrong, he reported to investigators the complicity of bank officials in the abuse of the system. banking.

Specific reference was made to the manager of a branch of a private bank located at the WTC regarding the issuance of instructions by Thilini Priyamali to stop payments after issuing checks to be cashed at that particular bank, said Sally. How could this particular bank allow her to irresponsibly issue checks continuously despite not having enough funds in her account, Salley asked.

Salley stressed that he would not have invested money or encouraged his partner to commit up to Rs 226 min with Thilini Priyamali without the guarantee of Janaki Siriwardena.

So far, the Fort magistrate has remanded five people arrested in connection with the Thico scam until November 16 pending further investigations. The CID arrested Waduwaarage Thilini Priyamali on October 5. On October 17, police arrested one of his associates, Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Isuru Shammika Bandara. A few days later, police apprehended Wijesuriya Arachchige Kasun Harshana Perera, director of Thico Construction Company, Ven. Borelle Sirisumana, who reportedly said he had attained the state of arahat, and Janaki Siriwardena were taken in on the 1st and 4th respectively. november.

A female officer, Chief Inspector Niroshani Hewapathirana, the officer in charge of CID’s Financial Crimes Investigation Division, is leading the investigation.

Appearing on ‘The Truth with Chamuditha’, Salley recently said that Janaki Siriwardena was so influential that slain Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi provided a special plane to take her home. The Libyan leader stepped in after she sought to return home citing an emergency, the former Western Province governor told the interviewer. According to Salley, Janaki Siriwardena was part of the government delegation led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

President Rajapaksa visited Libya in April and August 2009. Rajapaksa has publicly stated that Sri Lanka’s economy could have collapsed before the war was concluded in May 2009 if Muammar Gaddafi had not not agree to lend $500 million to Sri Lanka. in response to a single phone call from him.

Salley said he first met Thilini Priyamali at Janaki Siriwardena’s office in the One Transworks Square project building on May 3 this year. Stating that he had not even heard of Thilini Priyamali before that, Salley said the meeting took place on the day of Ramazan. The head of the NUA said that in a week, he had given Rs 45 mins to Janaki Siriwardena and Thilini Priyamali. “Of this amount, Janaki Siriwardena collected Rs 5 mins from me and subsequently Thilini Priyamali received Rs 19 mins and 21 mins over two days. Both days she came with Isuru Banadara who was driving a Benz Series 7.”

Later, Janaki Siriwardena accepted Rs 20 mins and 15 mins over two days at his office, Sally said, in total he invested Rs 80 mins. “I haven’t got my money back,” Salley said, acknowledging his associate also faced a dilemma. Although Salley declined to name the partner or what business he was involved in, he did not deny when Chamuditha Samarawickrema repeatedly asked if the anonymous investor was Abdul Shattar. Lawyer Maithri Gunaratne told The Island yesterday that he was representing Abdul Shattar, who was one of the few people to press charges in the matter.

Salley questioned the reporting of the Thico scam by two social media commentators in a way he said was intended to influence ongoing investigations. Claiming that the duo did so at the request of Janaki Siriwardena, Salley said some of those who were duped by the duo did not press charges for fear of repercussions. Salley said one of the commentators referencing his military background warned the public about his marksmanship prowess, both with handguns and assault weapons. This was meant to scare those struggling to get their money back, Salley said, adding that The One Transworks project now had serious problems.

Revealing he has contacted India-based boss Janaki Siriwardena, Salley said the project was unlikely to be completed amid growing controversy over it.

Commenting on the involvement of Ven. Borelle Sirisumana thera in Thico’s “operation”, Salley said that after an argument over the failure of the two women to settle the money taken from him and his associate, the monk on at least six occasions ensured the prompt return of their money. But, so far, not a single penny has been returned, Salley said, revealing that some of the money taken from them appeared to have been given to a Galle-based Kattandiya, a former member of the Southern Provincial Council which is the custodian of a devalaya. in Bataduwa.

Salley recalled a ceremony conducted by this particular kattandiya at the One Transworks complex at the request of Janaki Siriwardena.

Salley denied accusations that he had an affair with Thilini Priyamali. Various Tamil social media platforms have exploited unsubstantiated allegations and claims made by a particular social media activist with a military background. These platforms would be dealt with appropriately through legal means, Salley said, warning that he would not give up until he recovered the money that had been stolen from him. Sally estimated the total amount embezzled by Thilini Priyamali and Janaki Siriwardena at more than Rs 4 billion. However, others have speculated that the total amount could be as high as Rs 10 billion.

A lawyer familiar with the matter told The Island that the former minister who served in Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s cabinet is said to have made quite a big investment with Thico. However, he had not filed a complaint with the police so far. Salley also claimed that he knew three other people who had lost money, but were afraid to disclose their whereabouts, fearing reprisals from Janaki Siriwardena.