Colombo Telegraph

Have Authorities Deceived The People On Mahendran’s ‘Red Notice’?

By Amrit Muttukumaru

Amrit Muttukumaru

Former Central Bank Governor, Arjuna Mahendran’s place of residence is now no more a secret subsequent to media reports of a senior official in the Attorney General’s Department informing court that Mahendran, a fugitive from justice “had requested for copies of the warrant and evidence against him from the CID via the Singapore Interpol”. This was in response to the Colombo Fort Magistrate asking the senior AG official on the status of the Arrest warrant issued by court on Mahendran.

Apart from the ‘request’ from Mahendran being unusual, it leaves no doubt that the precise address of Mahendran is now known both to the authorities in Sri Lanka and Interpol. This is because Mahendran would have revealed the address to which the required documents were to be forwarded. The excuse of his whereabouts being unknown can no longer be trotted out by Sri Lanka authorities.

Will not this request likely set a dangerous precedent inimical to upholding the rule of law in relation to the criminal justice system? Are persons summoned to appear in court for criminal cases as in the case of Mahendran, entitled to documents prior to presenting themselves to court? Would even President Donald Trump if summoned to appear before US Department of Justice Special Counsel, Robert Mueller know in advance the questions Mueller would ask him? The views of legal experts on this matter will be appreciated. 

Even Mahendran’s son-in-law, Arjun Aloysius being in remand custody for the past several months has not moved him to be in Sri Lanka to either visit him or his daughter who we are to presume until now are unaware of his whereabouts. 

It is apparent the AG’s Dept. is not keen to act on the warrant on the basis of the lead story (not contradicted) in the ‘Daily Mirror’ of 24 August 2018. It is reported that Senior Deputy Solicitor General Haripriya Jayasundara had informed court that after having “obtained a red notice” from Interpol they were “working on certain arrangements on this matter”. To say the least the reporting of this response is vague. The newspaper report fails to disclose (i) when the ‘Red Notice’ was obtained? (ii) the date on which the authorities became aware of Mahendran’s precise location? (iii) for how long the authorities were “working” on the undefined “certain arrangements”? (iv) whether Mahendran was part of or aware of these “arrangements”? (v) whether Mahendran’s request for documents were consequent to these “arrangements”?

It appears these matters have not been brought to the attention of court – hence the magistrate’s query “what had happened with regard to the warrant issued” and request for a “report on that matter without delay”. The response of the senior AG official “it would make the necessary submission no sooner the process was finalized” is symptomatic of the issue not being a priority to the AG’s Department. This is alarming since Mahendran is reportedly the first suspect in the magisterial inquiry into the bond scam which is arguably one of the largest financial scams to have taken place in the post-independence history of Sri Lanka. For sheer impunity and involvement of powerful politicians in collusion with a section of the corporate sector and regulatory authorities it is hard to beat. 

We now get to the CLAIM of the Attorney General’s Department to court as reported in the media (not contradicted) that they had “obtained a red notice” from Interpol against Mahendran. The Interpol website does not support this claim.

Interpol ‘Red Notice’ 

As at 29 August 2018 the Interpol website lists only 3 persons of Sri Lankan nationality being issued ‘Red Notice’ as WANTED by the Sri Lanka government. This does NOT include Arjuna Mahendran. The Interpol website also does not list any person of Singapore nationality being issued ‘Red Notice’ as WANTED by Sri Lanka. The Interpol website also does not list Arjuna Mahendran even as a ‘Missing Person’ (‘Yellow Notice’). 

One wonders whether Interpol has been tardy in uploading names of persons against whom ‘Red Notices’ have been issued or MORE SERIOUSLY the government of Sri Lanka has requested Interpol not to publish the ‘Red Notice’. If so the government owes an explanation to the country as to why it does not want publicity to be given to the issue of a ‘Red Notice’ against Mahendran?

Interpol defines ‘Red Notice’ as follows:

“To seek the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.”

Mehendran: Business As Usual?

Arjuna Mahendran’s LinkedIn posting reveals it is business as usual for him even after he ceased being CBSL Governor in June 2016.

From ‘July 2016 – January 2017 7 months’ he is listed as ‘Investment Advisor’ in ‘Prime Minister’s Office Sri Lanka’

From’ January 2017 – Present 1 year 8 months Singapore’ he is listed as ‘Senior Investment Consultant’ in ‘Private Family Office’.

Hence on the basis of Mahendran’s LinkedIn posting he is very much in Singapore and not in anyway a ‘fugitive’ as claimed by authorities to be ‘wanted’ in Sri Lanka to face due process for his alleged role in the bond scam.

Does not Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe owe an explanation to the country as to how Mahendran after he ceased being CBSL Governor due to his alleged role in the bond scam was appointed ‘Investment Advisor’ in ‘Prime Minister’s Office Sri Lanka’?

Warrant & Sub Judice

The warrant issued by court could not be served as Mahendran was reportedly not available at his known address in Singapore. In the first place, in the context of then ongoing Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the bond scam (PCoI) why was Mahendran not listed as a suspect and prevented from leaving the country with an appropriate court order?  It was this that led to the Interpol being involved and the subsequent issue of the claimed Interpol ‘Red Notice’.

It is preposterous that sections of the (PCoI)  bond report which include annexures and also the CID investigation report were not presented to parliament. 

The media reports that the Attorney General is of the opinion that some documents provided to the PCoI by CBSL can only be released to the public domain subsequent to the concurrence of the CBSL. This is not all. Things become murkier with then President’s Secretary, Austin Fernando revealing (i) he had sent the PCoI bond report to the national archives which generally has a 30 year embargo on making it public (ii) the Attorney General had advised him that certain sections of the bond report cannot be made public as it is ‘sub judice’.

On the issue of sub judice, one gets the impression this is a ploy widely used to avoid public debate. On this basis all a wrongdoer has to do is file even a frivolous case and then shout from rooftops it is sub judice. There is legal opinion that “Publication may be justified on the grounds of being true and in the public interest even before the matter reaches open court. In other words, the defamatory or disparaging nature of a statement would be negated by the defence of truth and the public interest.” Here too the views of legal experts will be appreciated. 

Core of Bond Scam

1) ‘CONFLICT OF INTEREST’ arising from then Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s son-in-law, Arjun Aloysius – owning/controlling PTL (Perpetual Treasuries Limited) – a Primary Dealer. 

2) Arjuna Mahendran – a foreign national being HANDPICKED by PM Wickremesinghe for the position of Governor, CBSL although AWARE of the ‘Conflict of interest’. This was CONFIRMED in his affidavit and while testifying before the PCoI into the bond scam. 

3) The CBSL which is the issuing agency for Treasury Bonds which normally falls under the Ministry of Finance was brought under the purview of the PM.

4) The PM continued to have Mahendran as CBSL Governor although aware that Mahendran had RENEGED on his ‘assurance’ to him that his son-in-law (Arjun Aloysius) will sever all links with PTL PRIOR to his appointment as CBSL Governor.

5) The PM robustly defended and endorsed Mahendran for a second term despite the widespread perception of Mahendran’s alleged role in the Bond Scam.

6) Being fully confident on the propriety of the issuance of Bonds, the PM robustly defended the same in Parliament on 17 March 2015 despite the evidence that subsequently transpired before the PCoI into the bond scam.

Unusual Decisions

Notwithstanding the above, did not the PCoI and the AG’s Dept. take some UNUSUAL decisions in regard to the PM?

1) Unlike in the case of other witnesses, the PM was given questions in ADVANCE by the PCoI to enable him to provide answers by way of affidavit.

2) Unlike in the case of other witnesses, the PCoI decided to invite the Attorney General himself who wasn’t involved in the investigation up to that point to personally lead evidence for the FIRST TIME. Up to this time, Messrs. Dappula de Livera and Yasantha Kodagoda – Senior Additional Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor General respectively lead evidence.

3) Unlike in the case of other witnesses which included former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake who were GRILLED by Messrs. Dappula de Livera and Yasantha Kodagoda, limited questions were posed to the PM. He was at the PCoI reportedly for less than an hour to clarify matters arising from his affidavit.

Conclusion

1) The Attorney General’s Department and the Prime Minister’s office have a MORAL RESPONSIBILITY to CLARIFY (i) whether a ‘Red Notice’ has been issued by Interpol against Arjuna Mahendran (ii) if issued, why it has not been listed on the Interpol website? 

2) Now that Arjuna Mahendran’s address is no more a SECRET, will the authorities concerned forthwith take CREDIBLE action to get him down to Sri Lanka to face due process? The EXCUSE of not knowing his address is no longer applicable. To no surprise the response of the opposition for the most part has been MUTED. I leave it to readers to draw their conclusion on the state of play vis-à-vis governance and corruption in this ‘Land like no other’. 

3) Other issues concerning persons close to the PM who CONTRIBUTED to the egregious bond scam and its ‘cover-up’ also through the infamous ‘footnotes’ which were dealt with in previous articles by this writer, have in this instance been kept in abeyance since the current focus is on the AVAILABILITY of Mahendran’s address and the apparent NON-ISSUE of the claimed INTERPOL RED NOTICE.  

4) The most telling advantage wrongdoers have in Sri Lanka is the limited span of attention of most of our people. In most other countries people will be on the street DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY for even HALF the transgressions attributed to our politicians and bureaucrats under successive administrations.

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