Hatton National Bank has today responded to an opinion article written by Amrit Muttukumaru titled – Hatton National Bank & Central Bank Must Come Clean On “Grand Tax Evasion” Allegation. We publish below the HNB response as well as the writer Muttukumaru’s reply to the HNB response in full:
“We write in response to an article authored by Amrit Muttukumaru titled: Hatton National Bank & Central Bank Must Come Clean On “Grand Tax Evasion” Allegation, published by Colombo Telegraph on 2 January 2020, and which is derived from unsubstantiated allegations published by another website on 23 October 2013.
At the outset, HNB categorically refutes the totally unsubstantiated allegations made by Muttukumaru and reiterates that HNB has at all times strictly honored its statutory and ethical obligations including vis a vis, its obligations relating to payment of all taxes due to the Government.
The truth of this fact can and should be verified by reference to relevant legal authorities such as the Inland Revenue Department and other relevant regulatory and/or supervisory authorities.
Further the Bank has at all times ensured full and proper disclosure of pertinent financial information including all matters relating to outstanding tax assessments against the bank in the relevant Annual Reports, including the time period specified by Muttukumaru.
HNB also continues to contribute the highest percentage of its profits to the Government as taxes, as evidenced in HNB’s 2018 Annual Report, which shows a contribution equivalent to 47% of its operating profit amounting to Rs. 13.8 billion as taxes.
HNB reiterates that to the present day, the bank has not received a single communication from any of the relevant authorities relating to tax evasion, contradictory to Muttukumaru’s unsubstantiated allegations. HNB further notes that Muttukumaru has provided zero evidence to support a single claim made by him, save for a previous article published by the Sri Lanka Mirror.
Similarly, the original article – published in 2013 – itself contains zero evidence of the wrongdoing alleged by Muttukumaru, and simply concludes with the unfulfilled promise that “more information on this fraud will be revealed soon.”
Given the lack of any type of documentary or even verbal evidence provided by Muttukumaru to substantiate his claims, authorities within the bank contacted Muttukumaru in order to understand on what basis his claims were being made but these were ignored.
Muthukumaru’s lack of evidence to substantiate his allegations has not deterred him from repeatedly attempting to do harm to the reputation of an organization which has diligently worked to bolster the standards of banking products, services, and governance in the country, to the benefit of the largest number of Sri Lankan customers, spanning retail, SME, and microfinance.
Given the reckless and malicious nature of his comments, HNB reserves the right to pursue legal action to seek redress against Muttukumaru for intentionally publishing false accusations against HNB.”
Chammika Weerasinghe – Head of Marketing, Hatton National Bank Plc
At the end of the HNB response is the reply of the writer of the article Amrit Muttukumaru
1) The issues raised in my article “Hatton National Bank & Central Bank Must Come Clean On “Grand Tax Evasion” Allegation” are clearly not ‘Marketing’ issues and hence it is not appropriate for HNB’s ‘Head of Marketing’ to have been involved. Are these not important enough to engage the attention of HNB Managing Director/CEO – Jonathan Alles?
2) My article makes it clear that it is not based on empirical evidence gathered by me but on data available in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. It was published in the website ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’ on 23 October 2013 under the caption “HNB’s grand tax evasion”. The link to the website was given to both Jonathan Alles and then Central Bank (CBSL) Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy as far back as 25 September 2017. It was to no avail.
3) The serious allegations relating to tax evasion have not been refuted by HNB all these years. They were not even refuted when I brought them to the attention of Jonathan Alles – HNB Managing Director/CEO as far back as 10 November 2017 by e-mail and in subsequent reminders.
4) Despite HNB knowing fully well that I have nothing to do with these allegations, HNB MISCHIEVOUSLY keeps referring to “allegations made by Muttukumaru”!
5) My article makes it clear that I am faulting HNB for not investigating the serious allegations in ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’ to determine its truth or falsity.
6) Then HNB Chairman Dr. Ranee Jayamaha while CONFIRMING wrongdoing on the telephone indicated to me that the ‘Rs 600 million’ mentioned was an exaggeration. In this connection, I requested Jonathan Alles to forward my e-mail of 25 September 2017 to Dr. Jayamaha. Has he done so? If not why?
7) While the CBSL confirmed to me by e-mail on 6 November 2017 “The matter is being brought to the attention of the Inland Revenue Department”, HNB contradicts this by asserting there was no allegation of any tax evasion and an “internal probe” never took place.
8) If this is the case, it is surprising that both HNB and CBSL have been ‘sleeping at the wheel’ for so many years in the face of these serious allegations!
9) It beggars belief as to why CBSL referred the matter to the ‘Inland Revenue Department’ if there was no merit in the allegations in ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’?
10) It also beggars belief why HNB after keeping quiet all these years only now AFTER my article claims “zero evidence” of the “wrongdoing” alleged by ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’? I re-iterate I have not alleged any “wrongdoing” by HNB or any party connected to HNB.
11) Under the circumstances, is it not disingenuous for HNB to invite me for a meeting on 27 December 2019 to “discuss” this matter? What they should have done was to have invited the Editor of ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’ years ago to substantiate his website’s allegations. What is the implication of HNB’s failure to do so? If HNB is sincere in clearing up this issue in the public interest, should they not do so even now?
12) I demand that HNB forthwith gives a responsible response in the public interest to the serious allegations in ‘Sri Lanka Mirror’ without any further PREVARICATION.