Colombo Telegraph

Exposé: Dirty Harry ‘More Equal’ Than Tissa Before The Law

The newly installed Sri Lanka government has arrested the former Secretary General of the United National Party,(UNP) Tissa Attanayake for allegedly displaying a forged document claiming it to be real. However the government has so far failed to arrest Chairman of DCSL Sri Lanka Plc businessman Harry Jayawardena, also known as “dirty Harry‘, who was named in a Police “B” report by Sri Lanka Police’s Commercial Fraud Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department, Colombo Telegraph can reveal today.

Harry

Although the high profile businessman Harry Jayawardena was questioned by the Police and in spite of the Police having filed a ‘B’ report as far back as November 2013 Jayawardena was never arrested by the Police or the case proceeded with.

Businessman Harry Jayawardena has been named by the Sri Lanka Police’s Commercial Fraud Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in connection with a complaint that a forged document was supplied to the Gibraltar based bank ‘SG Hambros’. The businessman, who has been in the news on a variety of subjects, is accused by the complainant of having forged a letter purporting it to have been issued by the Company Secretaries.

The Company Secretaries have denied ever issuing the letter and have confirmed this to the bank in question – and to the Police too. Although the B Report was filed on the 22nd of November 2013, the Police questioned Harry Jayawardena as late as the first week in January 2014 in the comfort of his own premises. Jayawardena’s answers were then put to the complainants who firmly stood by their original complaint as being bona fide. The Police are now expected to go ahead and file charges against Harry Jayawardena.

Harry Jayawardena is a high roller: with extensive links and beneficial ownership of several corporates he was listed as Sri Lanka’s third richest man in 2013. He maintains close links with all political parties; he accompanied president Mahinda Rajapaksa after he addressed the business gathering in Colombo at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Jayawardena was also a high profile presence during the ceremony for John Ameratunga taking up his new appointment. It did not go amiss that Ameratunga’s ministry is responsible for the Police department.

The existence of the forged document came to light when Harry Jayawardena’s partners Raj Obeyesekere and Zaki Alif received a routine fax from their company bankers in Gibraltar asking for their account to be put into credit. Their company, Milford Exports Ceylon Limited was confirmed as being the beneficial owner of five Gibraltar companies that were created and managed by Hambros Bank Nominee services under trust arrangements for Milford Exports.

Obeyesekere and Alif have been virtually barred from their offices by security guards employed at the main gates. Most apologetically they have had to tell Obeyesekere and Alif that their orders were to prevent their entry to the company premises – a company to which they have devoted thirty plus years of effort and where they robustly maintain their shareholding. Much to the chagrin of Raaj Obeyesekere his office of more than 30 years is now occupied by Hasitha Jayawardene – son of the tycoon.

In spite of receiving advice from well-placed strategists including by former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa – to “bulldoze their way in” Obeyesekere and Alif have instead resorted to the use of eminent legal personalities in their quest to protect their lifetime achievements. Harry J, has apparently carried on regardless and is actively defending these matters in Court.

In documents obtained by the media the Gibraltar Supreme Court received a witness statement from Charles Humbert Gomez in his capacity as a director of Hambros Gibraltar Nominees Limited. Gomez is also a director at Aitken Spence, a blue chip company where the Famous Four enjoy a significant indirect shareholding.

Gomez confirms that in 2002 and in subsequent years thereafter, Milford Exports Ceylon Limited (MEL) made requests for company management and nominee services for Placidrange Holdings Limited, a Gibraltar company, whose shares were to be beneficially owned by MEL. Similar written requests were made for other Gibraltar companies namely Rubicond Enterprises, Sonetto Holdings, Greenfield Pacific EM Holdings Limited and Mills Enterprises Limited. All these arrangements Gomez confirmed were put in place according to the instructions received from MEL represented by Harry Jayawardena. During the initial period of setting up, a new business questionnaire was obtained by Hambros and under details of applicant the names and passport details of Jayawardena and Obeyesekere were provided.

The mandates to operate the account named Jayawardena and Obeyesekere.

In the same witness statement it has come to be revealed that Hambros ‘took over the accounts with Hatton National Bank plc. of Rubicond and Sonetto and ‘opened bank accounts for Placidrange and Greenfield with the Bank’. Gomez also confirms that Greenfield also purchased a property. Some of the sources we spoke to refer to this transaction as a property in the UAE – although definitive proof was not provided to us.

From the statements made by Gomez, by Jayawardena himself and by Obeyesekere and Alif too, Harry Jayawardena’s statement made to the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka by way of an affidavit, that he had no interest whatsoever in Greenfield is clearly a blatant falsehood. It is this statement that has led to calls for Jayawardena to be answerable to a question of perjury – unrelated to the forgery charges relating to the forged letter purportedly issued and signed by the Company Secretaries, who have denied that they ever issued such a document.

The magnitude of the greatest fraud in Sri Lanka

A veteran observer of the various stratagems deployed by Jayawardena in his battles with his partners Obeyesekere, Alif and Weinman, says, “to really understand the magnitude of what is happening, one must realise that the so-called ‘VAT Fraud’ was identified as having an amount of Rs 3.5 Billion in question.

“In this instance the value of the assets at stake is USD 200 Million – or Rs 26,400,000,000 (Rs 26.4 Billion). For further comparative purposes, consider that Golden Key Credit Card Company caused losses to their depositors of Rs 26 Billion. That of course had a depositor base of some 9,054 people. In the case of Milford Exports Ceylon Limited and their assets in Gibraltar, the Rs 26.4 Billion is shared between four shareholders: Harry Jayawardena, Raj Obeyesekere, Zaki Alif and Sonia Weinman”. Jayawardena is disputing that Ms Weinman has shares in Milford Exports amounting to 20% and maintains in his statement to the Court in Gibraltar that her holding is limited to just one share. A separate legal case is ongoing in this regard.

Casting aside widely held perceptions, The Rich List 2013 Sri Lanka listed Harry Jayawardena as Sri Lanka’s third richest man with a minimum value of USD 300 Million, behind Sohli Captain (USD 423 Million) and the richest Sri Lankan, Dhammika Perera (USD 538 Million). The book also identified the fact that Jayawardena has just the one Rs 10 share more than the other three put together. The book refers to the four collectively as “The Famous Four”.( faraz@thesundayleader.lk)

The Forged Document

The document that was the focus of the Police B report was supplied by Harry Jayawardena to SG Hambros in Gibraltar – bankers to Milford Exports Ceylon Limited.

In the document, Harry Jayawardena states that ‘due to a reorganisation’ of the company a decision was made by the Board to transfer all assets held for the benefit of Milford Exports Ceylon Limited to the personal names of Harry Jayawardena and his wife Priya Jayawardena.

The letter purports to carry an endorsement by the Company Secretaries. Clearly, as the request was asking for the transfer of an asset base of some USD 200 Million – or over Rs 26,000,000,000 (Rs 26 Billion) SG Hambros would have needed some comfort and that comfort would have been provided by the signature of the Company Secretaries being appended to the letter carrying Harry Jayawardena’s signature.

Meanwhile, Raj Obeyesekere and Zaki Alif as well as Sonia Weinman were unaware of the moves to appropriate their portion of the Rs 26 Billion fortune held under trust arrangements for the benefit of the shareholders of Milford Exports Ceylon Limited.

There were only four known shareholders of the company at that time: Don Harold Stassen Jayawardena, Raj Obeyesekere, Zaki Alif and Sonia Weinman who inherited her shareholding from her late father V.P. Vitachchi.

Sensing grave financial danger, Obeyesekere and Alif contacted the bank to dispute the request and assured the bankers that there was no such restructuring. The bank, used to dealing in the main with Harry Jayawardena, initially refused to have a dialogue with Jayawardena’s long time business partners, Obeyesekere and Alif.

That situation changed when the duo, acting for and on behalf of the shareholders of Milford Exports Ceylon Limited, contracted the services of a well respected legal team in Gibraltar to petition the bank.

SG Hambros decided to seek guidance from the Gibraltar Courts. The Gibraltar Court ordered that the bank take their instruction not from Jayawardena, Obeyesekere or Alif in any combination but rather that they take their instructions from the majority decision of the Board of Directors of Milford Exports Ceylon Limited. It was after all the legal entity that instructed the bank in the first place.

In the meantime, Harry Jayawardena and his wife both gave undertakings to the Gibraltar Court that they would return the assets to the control of SG Hambros, so that the status quo would be maintained. In essence, the Jayawardenas withdrew their instructions to the bank to transfer the assets, enabling the bank to maintain the status quo.

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