AG whips bond case to the finish line | Sunday Observer

AG whips bond case to the finish line

7 July, 2019
Attorney-General, Dappula de Livera
Attorney-General, Dappula de Livera

It has been over four years since the infamous Central Bank Treasury Bond auction of 27 February 2015, which led to huge losses being incurred by the state due to the actions of former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) and the son-in-law of the governor and PTL owner, Arjun Aloysius.

After years of dragging feet and media circuses by the CID and several officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, it was only after the current Attorney-General Dappula de Livera took office that things really were set in motion to bring the culprits to book, according to several officials of the Attorney-General’s Department.

First there was the Commission of Inquiry set up in 2017 to Investigate and Inquire into the Issuance of Treasury Bonds by the Central Bank. At that commission too, it was de Livera, then Solicitor General, who insisted that he be given a large team of prosecutors to assist the commission with their investigations.

Throughout 2017, de Livera’s team under his direction exposed several acts of wrongdoing by the bond scam suspects, including a penthouse provided to a cabinet minister by Arjun Aloysius, the destruction of evidence by PTL officials, and evidence that it was Governor Mahendran’s unprecedented personal interference that led to the illegal profits PTL had raked in during the various bond auctions.

“This was so far the largest organized financial crime ever perpetrated in Sri Lanka,” said a source from the Attorney-General’s Department. “The public only got to know because of the hard work of then Solicitor General Dappula de Livera and the team that he chose.”

However, after the conclusion of the commission and the issuance of its report in January 2017, the then Attorney-General removed de Livera from his earlier role supervising the team, and appointed a fresh team of prosecutors excluding the Solicitor General, to assist the CID with its investigations into the bond scam.

With de Livera absent, nothing happened for over one year, until February 4, 2018, when the CID arrested Kasun Palisena and Arjun Aloysius and produced them before the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court as the first two suspects in the bond scam case. Then after another year, on March 25, 2019, there was another round of arrests, when the directors of PTL and a former Central Bank official were also arrested.

While the CID and AG’s Department officials who used to handle the bond matter had kept telling the Magistrates Court that “investigations were ongoing”, the truth was that just with the bond report alone, the Attorney-General had enough evidence to convict everyone responsible for the February 2015 bond scam, according to a prosecutor familiar with the case.

Therefore it was only when Attorney-General Dappula Livera took office in May 2019 that things began to accelerate. One of de Livera’s first moves was to appoint one of the sharpest State Counsel in the AG’s Department, Nishara Jayaratne, as the Coordinating Officer to the Attorney-General.

Through the efforts of de Livera and Jayaratne, several cases in which the police and prosecutors were dragging their feet were brought back on track. One of these cases was the Bond investigation, which the new Attorney-General was determined to see at least one indictment go out within one month of his assuming office on May 10.

It was less than one month later that de Livera wrote to Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya seeking permission to file an indictment against PTL, Mahendran, Aloysius and seven other individuals before the new Permanent High Court Trial at Bar. They were to be charged with criminal breach of trust, criminal misappropriation and insider dealing.

“The above charges have been formulated considering all the evidence presented during the Bond Commission inquiry conducted by the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the President and also considering the material disclosed during the investigation conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)” said Coordinating Officer to the Attorney-General, State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne.

On June 13, “the Chief Justice on being satisfied with the information filed by that AG”, ordered “that the Permanent High Court at Bar holden (sic) in the Western Province try the case in respect of the offences stated in the information submitted to him,” said Jayaratne. “The Attorney-General will file indictment accordingly.”

No sooner the approval of the Chief Justice was received, de Livera sprang into action and ordered his team to begin printing the several million pages of documents required to file the indictment and serve on the accused. On June 28, with all the printing completed, the AG filed case number PTB/1/5/2019 before the Permanent High Court at Bar. The 10 accused have been noticed to appear before the court next Friday, July 19, for the indictment to be served on them.

But this indictment does not mark the end of the bond investigations. “There are more indictments to be presented on the basis of evidence revealed at the Bond Commission inquiry and investigations conducted by the CID,” Jayaratne said.