26 January, 2020

Blog

Hatton National Bank & Central Bank Must Come Clean On “Grand Tax Evasion” Allegation

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

HNB Managing Director/CEO – Jonathan Alles and just retired CBSL Governor – Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy have not thought it fit to touch even with a barge pole the damning allegations in the exposé “HNB’s grand tax evasion” published in a well-known website (not Colombo Telegraph) at the time Dr. Ranee Jayamaha was HNB Chairman.

These allegations if credible (Ranee Jayamaha apparently thinks so) have huge implications to the integrity of Sri Lanka’s banking system, fiscal consolidation, CBSL’s ‘bank supervision’ and the already battered chartered accountancy profession. True to form the mainstream media would have none of it. 

It is alleged: 

1) “HNB has been engaged in the tax evasion process for the past 5 to 6 years with the assistance of the officers attached to Inland Revenue Department”

2) “The bank has allegedly evaded around Rs 600 million of company tax”

3) “The tax advisor to the bank Charted Accountant——–is said to be a main partner in this fraud”

4) “In its preliminary investigations, the Central Bank has revealed that half of the evaded tax has been divided between the tax advising company and the officers at the Revenue Department involved”

5) “The current chairman of the bank Rani Jayamaha has also been able to identify the wrongdoing through an internal probe”

Jonathan Alles and Coomaraswamy were given the link to the website as far back as 25 September 2017. It was to no avail. 

Jonathan Alles

I followed up my 10 November 2017 e-mail to Jonathan Alles which was ignored with my e-mail of 18 December 2019 which was also ignored. 

In the context of the allegation that then “chairman of the bank Rani Jayamaha has also been able to identify the wrongdoing through an internal probe” I requested Jonathan Alles to clarify: 

“(i) whether an “internal probe” took place? (ii) whether it identified any “wrongdoing”? (iii) if so, what were the specific instances of “wrongdoing”? (iv) what action was taken against those responsible for any “wrongdoing”?”

His silence speaks louder than words. 

It was my ‘Reminder’ to Jonathan Alles on 23 December 2019 that elicited a response for the first time from HNB on 24 December from Marina Clarenton on behalf of Dilshan Rodrigo – Chief Operating Officer. It was to invite me for a meeting with Rodrigo and Thushari Ranaweera – HNB Board Secretary on 27 December to “discuss” this matter. 

I promptly responded the same day (24 December) to Dilshan Rodrigo with a copy to Jonathan Alles inter alia as follows:

“I re-iterate that under the circumstances, any meeting with me to “discuss” this matter will serve no useful purpose. All what HNB has to do and what it apparently is refusing to do is respond in writing to the allegations in the ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’.

I trust HNB will do so in the best interest of all concerned as this matter has already been delayed long enough.”

Former Governor Coomaraswamy

The allegations include:

“In its preliminary investigations, the Central Bank has revealed that half of the evaded tax has been divided between the tax advising company and the officers at the Revenue Department involved.”

After I brought it to the attention of former Governor Coomaraswamy on 25 September 2017, it took the CBSL 42 days to advise me (i)“CBSL has not carried out any investigations” (ii) “the statements” in the article “are factually incorrect” (iii) “The matter is being brought to the attention of the Inland Revenue Department.”

It begs the questions:

i) How “the statements” contained in the article could be “factually incorrect” if “CBSL has not carried out any investigations”?

ii) Why it took CBSL 42 days (from my e-mail of 25 September) to belatedly state “The matter is being brought to the attention of the Inland Revenue Department.”?

iii) Has CBSL brought it “to the attention of the Inland Revenue Department” even now? If not why?

In my said e-mail of 25 September 2017 to former Governor Coomaraswamy also copied to Jonathan Alles I inter alia wrote:

Dr. Ranee Jayamaha – Confirms Wrongdoing

Dr. Ranee Jayamaha when serving as HNB Chairman confirmed wrongdoing on the phone while indicating the ‘Rs 600 million’ mentioned was an exaggeration.

Mr. Jonathan Allesincumbent HNB Managing Director cannot be unaware if an internal probe” took place identifying “wrongdoing” during Dr. Jayamaha’s tenure as chairman since during her tenure  (April 2011 – April 2015) he was (i) Deputy CEO (November 2011 – April 2013) (ii) Acting CEO (May – June 2013) (iii) MD/CEO  from 1 July 2013. 

I kindly request Mr. Alles to forward this e-mail to Dr. Ranee Jayamaha.”  

Neither former Governor Coomaraswamy nor Jonathan Alles have refuted “Dr. Ranee Jayamaha – Confirms Wrongdoing”

I ask Jonathan Alles:

1) Did you forward the e-mail to Dr. Jayamaha? If not why? 

2) If forwarded what was Dr. Jayamaha’s response?

3) If in your view the website has been hallucinating, has punitive action been taken against the website? If not why?

I ask former Governor Coomaraswamy:

1) You have flatly denied the allegation “In its preliminary investigations, the Central Bank has revealed that half of the evaded tax has been divided between the tax advising company and the officers at the Revenue Department involved”. If in your view the website has been hallucinating, has punitive action been taken against the website? If not why?

2) To establish the truth or otherwise of this alleged scam, did you at the very least seek the clarification of Dr. Ranee Jayamaha who was previously CBSL Deputy Governor? If not why?

Awards

HNB over the years has been the recipient of a cartload of purported ‘prestigious’ awards. The ‘Daily FT’ in its front page news item of 19 July 2019 HNB shines at Euromoney, Asian Banker Awards  reports the following 2019 awards:

‘Best Bank in Sri Lanka’ 2019 – ‘Euromoney’ Magazine

‘Best Managed Bank in Sri Lanka’ 2019 – ‘Asian Banker’ Magazine

To cap it all off Jonathan Alles was the recipient of ‘CEO Leadership Achievement’ 2019 from ‘Asian Banker’. 

Conclusion

Dinesh Weerakkody the incumbent HNB Chairman is in the best position to handle this ‘hot potato’. He seems to be the country’s most sought after and hence experienced bank and company director. He was previously Chairman, Commercial Bank and director of DFCC Bank. Described as a ‘thought leader’ by ‘Daily FT’, he should be more than capable to get to the bottom of this saga without depleting his vast reservoir of ‘thoughts’.

I trust Dinesh Weerakkody and Jonathan Alles will also clarify matters in regard to the alleged shocking customer injustice exposed in Colombo Telegraph

All what this writer is seeking in the public interest is a robust and transparent investigation to determine the truth or otherwise of these allegations. 

Does the absence of transparent investigations enable bigwigs in banks to hop from bank to bank? It is rumoured that high level bank officers who perform their statutory duties diligently not to the liking of their bosses are put to pasture prior to being eased out.

I hope the well funded ‘Transparency International Sri Lanka’ (TISL) will get cracking on  ‘SPECIFIC’ cases instead of dwelling on ‘awareness’ programmes and ‘Corruption Perceptions’. It is observed that TISL steers clear of corporate corruption without which large scale government corruption is unlikely to happen.

HNB must not be allowed to ride roughshod over these damning allegations which have a crucial bearing on the welfare of the country and the people. I urge the newly appointed CBSL Governor – Professor W.D. Lakshman to activate CBSL’s ‘Bank Supervision Department’ which has been in “deep slumber” when it really matters. This includes the ‘creative’ and disingenuous flouting of regulations pertaining to ‘single party’ ownership of banks. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 14
    4

    The author needs to first realize:

    – Coomaraswamy is gone. His long standing personal grudge against him will have to be sorted out in person since there is no further point attacking him in the media.

    – The incumbent CEO was brought in by a former famous Chairman whose own family member has been banned from the financial services industry for alleged fraud at another bank.

    – The ‘thought leading’ HNB Chairman is primarily a plagiarist whose articles are ghostwritten by others or copied outright. Ditto for the books he published claiming credit for the ‘November revolution’. Anyone who has worked with him knows how chaotic the man is and his penchant for trying to rub shoulders with the big wigs (failed during his last ‘fireside chat’ since the incumbent president knows exactly who he is). As one of Ranil’s stalwarts and son in law of the infamous Viagra John, I am not sure if ‘Conflict of Interest’ is defined as ‘HNB Chairman’ these days. Please look in to how a low level HR executive at a pharma company suddenly rose to become the chairman of three banks owned primarily by his master Harry J. He should look in to the doings of his master’s offspring in treating the bank like their personal piggy bank.

    – Brings me to the final point which “Amrit Muttukumaru” doesn’t seem to realise- that there is little independence among banks in Sri Lanka with so many of the private banks owned by a handful of individuals either directly or via proxy, and there being no such thing as independence. Amrit, why don’t you focus on this important fact instead?

    • 2
      8

      You are hell of a vicious guy. With no name. Why don’t you go for tabloid publishing ? You have a personal vendetta against Harry and the Chairman. The low level HR Executive of the Pharma company has been a Director of the MNC Pharma Company for 20 years. You have surely an axe to grind Sir.

    • 4
      19

      Amirith is a man with a sordid past from child molesting to going after his relations , he was so jealous when Indrajith his relation was appointed as the CB Governor. Best not to waste time on him. Use it for a better purpose. HNB is one of the better banks in Sri Lanka . I can vouch for that having had accounts with the bank for so long. We need more responsible reporting Sir. CT should focus more on protecting the truth.

    • 19
      1

      Man the hatred in the comment. the issue is about the bank. Someone is venting his frustration disgracefully.

      Like George Bernard Shaw said

      Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.

    • 5
      25

      It is very evident that the ghost writer of this comment has an axe to grind. I have a passion to write and have been writing over 30 years starting with the Sun News paper. I will continue to write and if I want to use ghost writers, I will do that too . If you don’t like it tough luck Sir. As for being a low level HR executive. Can I know where ? I have been Head of HR of a Bank and Director HR and Board Director of the MNC you are referring to Sir. My performance at the ETF and Commercial Bank. The results speak for it self. I don’t need to defend myself. Please stick to the issue and don’t slander people Sir. All I can say therefore is -Peace be to this man!

      • 17
        0

        Dear Mr. Dinesh weerakkody,

        Instead of commenting and replying to one individual , you may answer to entire allegation which was posted by CT with responsibility manner.
        1. What will be your comment or statement regarding above post by CT…?
        2. Have you taken any action regarding matter of individual customer Mrs. Vinothini ..?
        3. If bank side clean and clear why they stopped the property auction …?
        4. Please confirm without coming to any conclusion or settlement why your banking Higher officials Demanding to stop social media posting ( if required solid evidence can provide which was send by your officials with their signature)

        Hope to get from You ASAP.

    • 0
      14

      Amrit needs to get his facts correct.

      In fact the chairperson and the MD referred to in the article did their level best to clean up the bank which was ruined by the former chairman, former MD and the former CFO.

      I have had accounts with the bank for many years and will recommend the bank anytime to anyone.

  • 17
    0

    I think the Sri Lankan banking system in foreign hands and crooked politicians. I think last five years it peaked even though corruptions supposed to have begun since 1994, During the Yahapalana times, crooked system allowed so many corrupt acts, Other than this Tax evasion, I heard, One commercial bank, a woman director or chair-person sold a chunk of the stock to foreigners. Another place is Peoples Bank which has become a Gambling place to some politicians and to their business friends, They have used bank loans from the peoples bank as co-lateral to borrow more loans. Thus I read.
    I think this president will clean those as the Finance Ministry and banks too have very corrupt places and crash easily making those vulnerable to buyouts by interested foreign parties.
    As banks are charging people and as the management is paid hefty bonuses they should be caught when they do not pay taxes. Directors should be black marked.

  • 27
    1

    Here you can see how HNB is…!! This is how they act…!! People should open their eyes and choose the proper bank.
    I m a non resident srilankan… after I red fraud case in HNB which was published by CT. last Month I went and withdrew my FD 7.2 million from HNB and deposited to peoples bank with higher interest. And I close all my accounts in HNB kandy Branch.
    Common guys don’t be late anymore don’t believe any private banks. Always preferred government bank which you can trust. And your money will be safe.

  • 16
    1

    I don’t like to share my story but I m advising you all… Do not believe HNB online statement which you receiving monthly. Please check your saving account , current accounts and corporate accounts…!! Each And every Cash and cheque transactions whether matching with their statement monthly basis. Or weekly basis.
    Don’t give your money to wrong hands… even if you have very good relationship with Manager or bank staff. They all thieves.
    HNB this is my open statement to you…. soon your organisation will fall down. Then you will feel how you treated to innocent people and cheat them.
    KARMA starts now….!!!!

  • 0
    8

    Thushara

    if you have a specific issue please write to CBSL or to CID without making wild allegations -Also you are not a celebrity and no one will take you seriously

    • 7
      0

      @ MR. Nadarajah….
      Then what the hell you taking my comment as serious and commenting to me…? If you doesn’t have any concern ..? Excuse me does HNB paid to you to put comment against me..?
      Common man understand the fact don’t be wilful-led blind and be a donkey…!!

    • 4
      0

      @ Mr. Nadarajah

      So if something happen To celebrity only you guys ready to hold the Black flag and take it seriously ???
      If same thing happen to poor or innocent people you never mind..???
      What kind of silly mind you have..?
      Really shame on you..!!
      This is shows your stupidity and dirty mind too…!!!!

  • 20
    2

    I wish to Thank Mr Muttukumaru for his good work.
    I urge all Sri Lankans not to deal with Hatton National Bank untill they come clean.

  • 1
    19

    The bank in question appears to have done the right thing in inviting the writer for discussions . However , Mr. Muttukumaru appears to have dodged the issue but continues to slander the bank via CT . I sincerely hope he doesn’t trigger off a run on this bank which could have serious consequences for the whole country.

  • 2
    0

    I had an NRFC Account about 8 years ago wih HNB and was rewarded with a regular deposit in another account as a reward / incentive for saving in Lanka. The NRFC a/c was closed about 6 years ago. I still
    Am informed each month of the existence of an account that could be accessed via the net. But I am totally unaware of the complete number. At least two messages were sent by me requesting this full numbers but
    Ignored by the bank.. Something is not quite right and this article prompted me to respond

  • 1
    22

    This is the second instance that Amrit Muttukumaru criticized about Hatton National Bank in public. HNB possesses more than 100 years of successful existence with gamut of achievements awarded by international bodies of fame. First and foremost writer should give due consideration that HNB is a public quoted company playing pivotal role in the banking sector of this country. Amrith has piculiar mentality of tarnishing the names of reputed organizations but so far none of that kind crashed to crumble. Therefore we should not give two hoots to his accusations as he is more or less a cynic doesn’t seem to have constructive ideas. We wonder from where the hell he has the time do all these nonsense. Amrit looks as if he is a ‘KUIYAMMA’ type fellow.

  • 1
    4

    Thushara

    I am sure you are educated at least up to GCE OL(least) and in a position to make a formal complain and obtain redress from the relevant authority without resorting to slander

    NO need to get angry with me for exposing your stupidity

    • 3
      0

      Dear Nadarajah…
      hope you done your education in PHD level.
      And one information I would like to share with you.
      You advise to me write to CBSL and CID but please go through above post by CT. even CBSL helpless for this big matter.
      Do you think CBSL will help to individual issue…? And do you how many formalities need to Be done to reach CID …?
      Without any knowledge about this things please don’t comment if the things are beyond your knowledge.

  • 2
    18

    HNB is a great Bank. Keep the good work. The bank is being targeted very clearly. Why I don’t know. There are lot of good people there. Please don’t ruin their futures by planting stories

  • 2
    2

    Dear Thushara

    Yes I do have a PHD in finance but that it has no relevance to my comments as I believe in commonsense when making comments

    please remember that action against banks unlike other businesses need to be handled very carefully and professionally as the business is mainly funded by the depositors whose money needs to be returned when demanded by the depositors

    please direct your complain to the relevant authorities including the Banking Ombudsman as you have not done that to date and CT is only a forum without any clout

    Also remember that minimizing the tax liabilities using the correct methodology is fine .We need to handle the top four very carefully namely BOC,PB,Commercial and HNB as they are part of our economy

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.