Crashed computers, whistleblowers dominate PCoI | Sunday Observer

Crashed computers, whistleblowers dominate PCoI

Last week, the Treasury Bond Commission proceedings hardly fell short of a James Bond movie, with the surfacing of critical evidence, high security measures, crashed computers, destroyed evidence and whistleblowers.

Perpetual Treasuries Limited, IT Executive, Sachit Devatantri, Chief Dealer of PTL Nuwan Salgado and PTL Chief Executive Officer Kasun Palisena testified before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating into the Treasury bond issue, last week.

Devatantri and Salgado were in the limelight as they turned whistleblowers against PTL.

At the beginning of the week, Sachit Devatantri admitted to have deliberately crashed the voice logger computer of PTL’s telephone call recording system, on the instructions of PTL Chief Dealer Nuwan Salgado. According to Devatanri, he crashed the Operating System of the said voice logger computer by referring to how-to videos in the internet. He said the reason for crashing the computer was to conceal the fact that PTL had deleted several telephone calls from its recording system, on two or more occasions.

Domino effect

Devatartri’s whistle-blowing caused a chain reaction as Nuwan Salgado who according to Devatantri gave instructions to crash the voice logger computer was summoned before the PCoI the very same day, Monday (4).

Salgado was asked if the decision to crash the computer was his own, or if he received instructions from officers above his rank.

Salgado then made the startling revelation that PTL CEO Kasun Palisena instructed him to crash the voice logger computer. He denied knowing if the instruction came from someone above the CEO Palisena. However, Salgadu said Arjun Aloysius, the owner of PTL could have known about the destroying of this evidence.

Salgado also disclosed that PTL CEO Kasun Palisena instructed him to listen, identify and delete call recordings which are “harmful to the interests of PTL” because they have relevance to the Treasury bond auctions held on March 29, 30, 2016.

According to Salgado, the deleted calls included telephone conversations relating to the March 29, 31, 2016, Treasury bond auctions which are being investigated into by the PCoI. A series of deletions have taken place in April 2016 and on July 6 2017, which coincide with the Central Bank commencing investigations into PTL in 2016, and the CID’s probe in July 2017.

Both, Devatantri and Salgado begged apology from the Tribunal for misleading the Commission of Inquiry, providing affidavits with false information regarding the telephone call recordings. When Salgado was questioned on the February 27, 2015 auction, he told the PCoI that he did not take the decision to place bids worth Rs 15 billion at the Auction, even though he was the PTL Chief Dealer at the time.

According to Salgado, CEO of PTL Kasun Palisena took the decision to place the bid.

Salgado also agreed that Arjun Aloysius would have been consulted by Palisena on this decision.

Salgado disassociated himself from the final sales of the Treasury bonds bought at the February 27 2015 auction by the Employee’s Provident Fund. According to Salgado, it was Palisena who sealed most of the deals for PTL with the EPF.

On Tuesday, when the Treasury Bond Commission did not sit, there was silence, before the approaching storm. However, reliable sources said a team of Special Task Force officers were deployed to provide security to the Commission premises, Tuesday night.

By Tuesday, special sources confirmed a breakthrough in the Treasury bond case and the possibility of Arjun Aloysius being summoned to the Commission to give a statement to the CID.

The Commission recommenced hearing on Monday morning under heavy police guard.

Wednesday morning was one of suspension, thrill and alarming revelations. Additional Solicitor General, Yasantha Kodagoda, playing three ‘deleted’ telephone conversations before the Treasury Bond Commission, established the position that Arjun Aloysius was privy to insider and price sensitive information on the questioned Treasury bond issuance at the March 29, 31 2016 auctions.

Bond auction

 

According to two telephone conversations, Arjun Aloysius, despite him not being the PTL CEO anymore, gives specific instructions to Kasun Palisena who at the time was the CEO of PTL. The conversations imply that Aloysius had insider information from the Central Bank, The EPF and the National Saving Bank Primary Dealer arm. The information includes bid volumes, bid rates and decisions taken at the state bank committee meeting.

Both conversations have taken place on March 29 2016 at 9.18 a.m. which coincides with the March 29 2016 Treasury bond auction. The said auction was open and running by 9.18 a.m. The 20 minute conversation implies that Arjun Aloysius gave extensive information and directions to PTL CEO Kasun Palisena, including the volume and the rates, and on what instances. Aloysius at one point says he is confident that government institutes would bid low and that there is a rate cut.At one point Aloysius says, he is very confident that there will not be a rate hike as expected by the market.

ASG Yasantha Kodagoda questioning Salgado established the position that Aloysius was privy to insider information which he used, to bid on the March 29, 31 2016 auctions and gained large profit. ASG Kodagoda also revealed that PTL had gained a phenomenal profit aggregating Rs. 11 Billion during the time period 2015 to 2016. The ASG said, PTL managed to gain such huge profits in the backdrop where the second highest profit maker in Bond trading had only about Rs. 500 million during this time.

ASG Kodagoda: Do you think Aloysius possessed confidential and price sensitive information which were not in the public domain?

Salgado: Yes.

ASG K: Do you agree that this information cannot be derived from the public domain?

S: Yes.

ASG Kodagoda: Do you agree that this sensitive information had a direct bearing on the decision making process of the PTL regarding the March 31 2016 auction?

S: Yes.

ASG Kodagoda: Do you agree that Arjun Aloysius was running the show and directing how the decisions should be made by PTL, though he has stepped down from the post as CEO?

S: Yes.

ASG Kodagoda: Do you agree that Arjun Aloysius received sensitive information from multiple insiders?

S: Yes.

ASG K: Do you agree that Kasun Palisena bid at the March 31 2016 auction using this information given to him by Arjun Aloysius?

S: Yes.

Early morning Wednesday, Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda informed the PCoI that Aloysius is not reachable to hand over the notice summoning him to give a statement to the CID team attached to the Treasury Bond Commission. The Commission on Wednesday issued a notice summoning Perpetual Treasuries Limited owner Arjun Aloysius to give statements to the CID.

According to ASG Kodagoda the CID officers visited Aloysius’ residence to find that he was not available. According to the CID officers the domestic at Aloysius’ house did not know where the house owner was. ASG Kodagoda informed the Commission that the CID officers who tried Aloysius’ work place too could not find him there.

According to ASG Kodagoda, the CID officers had then attempted to contact Aloysius’ personal secretary, one Samuells. The personal secretary too had denied any knowledge regarding the whereabouts of his boss. By Wednesday late night Aloysius was yet unavailable. Meanwhile, it was revealed that Aloysius possessed two passports, one, a Sri Lankan passport and the other an Australian.

On Thursday (7) early morning Arjun Aloysius appeared at the Treasury Bond Commission to give a statement to the CID assisting the Commission. He was interrogated for more than eight hours.

He again appeared before the Commission on Friday, and was interrogated by the CID officers again for a similar time period. CID expects to finish recording statements from Aloysius by Sunday (10). Aloysius’ counsel was informed to provide Aloysius’ evidence as an affidavit by next week.

The Treasury Bond Commission acquired a safe to store the sensitive evidence of its investigation under lock and key. The safe was brought in a military truck, accompanied by STF officers.

Meantime, the two whistleblowers against PTL, Salgado and Devatantri requested special witness protection from the police Witness Protection Division.

ASG Yasantha Kodagoda requested the PCoI to make appropriate direction to the Police to conduct an assessment on threats to PTL Chief Dealer Nuwan Salgado under the specific legal provisions in the Witness Protection Act. Salgado also made a statement that he has concerns about his family’s safety.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the critical episode at the Commission PTL lawyer President’s Counsel Nihal Fernando stepped down from representing PTL at the Commission from Thursday (7). However, Fernando PC will be assisting the Commission until PTL

CEO Kasun Palisena finishes his testimony. According to Fernando PC, evidence led through Salgado and Devatantri is incompatible to the instructions he has received from PTL.

An Objection 

The week ended on Friday (8) with an objection from Aloysius’ counsel against Aloysius giving evidence before the Treasury Bond Commission. His submission was based on whether it is compellable to summon Aloysius as a witness to the Commission.

The Commissioner, Supreme Court Judge P.S. Jayawardena said, it is up to them to decide whether to appear before the Commission or not.

He requested to consider it very carefully before coming to a decision. Meanwhile, President’s Counsel Gamini Marapana appeared before the Commission to request permission to appear on behalf of Arjun Aloysius. Salgado is next in line to be cross examined by Aloysius’ lawyer in the coming week. 

 

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