Well-known Sri Lankan professional consultant, public interest litigant and anti-corruption activist Nihal Sri Ameresekere, finds himself in the middle of a Rs 100 million scandal where a deal was finalized involving the Bank of Ceylon (BoC) and the Treasury less than a month before the Presidential Election.
According to documents in Colombo Telegraph’s possession, Ameresekere had requested the BoC for a Rs 100 million overdraft in early December 2014. The Bank was told that Ameresekere would be in a position to repay the money within a month because he would be receiving a sum exceeding this amount from the Treasury. He claimed that the Treasury owed him money and furnished a letter from the Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, S.R. Attygalle confirming this.
Colombo Telegraph learns that Ameresekere is yet to settle the amount outstanding a year after the overdraft was obtained.
Ameresekere has maintained that the Treasury had owned him money for services rendered related to negotiations with a Japanese contractor by the name of Mmitsui & Taisei. He has also implied that he helped reduce interest rates and re-schedule loans, according to correspondence in our possession. Ameresekere’s overall claim includes fees for looking after the interests of the Government and Hotel Developers Ltd.
As of now there’s no evidence that Ameresekere was officially contracted to deliver any such services for the Government or for Hotel Developers Ltd.
Colombo Telegraph wrote to Ameresekere seeking clarification on matters arising from the above. We asked him the following:
1. Did you request an overdraft from the Bank of Ceylon in early 2014?
2. Did you say that you will repay within a month since there were monies due to you from the Treasury?
3. If you did receive the overdraft, did you repay within a month and if you did not, why not?
4. Was there any written agreement with the Treasury that you will be paid for actions and efforts which resulted in the write-off of Jap Yen 17,586 million due to Mitsui & Taisei, reduction of interest rates and the re-schedulement of loans?
5. Were you formally tasked to assist and defend the interests of the Government and Hotel Developers Ltd in the litigation instituted or caused to be instituted by Cornel & Company?
6. If so, was there any agreement regarding compensation due for these efforts?
Ameresekere is yet to respond.
However, regardless of whether or not there was a formal agreement with the Government, it is clear that the Treasury, as represented by Attygalle, believed there was. Attygalle after all has informed BoC in writing that the Treasury indeed owes Ameresekere and therefore virtually guaranteed repayment.
Attygalle wrote to the Bank: ‘the Treasury has no objection in granting an advance of Rs 100 Mn to Mr Ameresekere in view of the proposed final settlement in liey of all the claims with respect to HDL, which may be finalized in consultation with the Competent Authority appointed under the Revival of Underperforming Enterprises Or Underutilized Assets Act No 43 of 2011’. The final claim, Attygalle has opined, will be remitted upon the finalization of the claims.
Efforts to reach Attygalle for clarification have proved futile. Colombo Telegraph awaits a full response from Ameresekere to the questions put to him.