The nexus between the then Finance Minister and present Foreign Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Arjun Aloysius became evident today at the Commission investigating the Bond Scam after the Attorney general read out text messages referring to the Minister.
Despite Karunanayake’s denial at first, his relationship with Arjun Aloysius and then knowledge of the apartment he currently lives in, the Attorney Generals Department derived clear proof of the nexus.
Although initially denied, Karunanayake’s connection with the Sunday Leader was also laid bare at the commission.
Karunanayake first denied that he knew Aloysius in any capacity other than a family friend. Additional Solicitor General Dappula De Livera who questioned Karunanayake asked him what type of relationship he had with Aloysius.
AG:” Was it a personal relationship?”.
AG: Was it a official relationship?
AG: Was it a business relationship?
AG: Then what kind of relationship did you have?
RK: A normal one, like any politician would have with people. You know they call me for jobs and all.
Immediately thereafter De Livera pulled out the file containing the data of Aloysius’ mobile which ran into nearly 8600 pages.
Startling evidence came before the Commission thereafter.
One text message sent by Aloysius’ personal assistant to Aloysius was to obtain the minutes of the Monetary Board meeting, held on the 28th of November 2016.
28 November 2016 – Remind me to ask Hon MP RK to get a copy of the Monetary Board Paper
Karunanayke was startled and denied knowledge of the message. Thereafter he was asked if he had met with Aloysius and Karunanayake said ‘no’. The AG thereafter read out another text message
1 December 2016 – From Steve Samuel
Good Morning Chairman Hope you had a good meeting with RK. Reminder 1 PM haircut.
According to the data found on Aloysius’s text messages, it has come to light that both Ravi Karunanayake and Arjun Aloysius had both funded the Sunday Leader newspaper soon after the change in governments in 2015.
Another text read To Arjun Aloysius
Social media is a strong weapon these days.Allow us to start our gossip column. We can give a massive support to PM and Hon Ravi K. I am going to cover the cost for two months. 3 to 5 million. Let’s do this boss.
The insinuations were clear, that Karunanayake had met with Aloysius days after the meeting of the monetary board.
Thereafter Karunanayake was questioned as to a letter which was not dated, which was signed by him, and given to Arjun Mahendran. The letter said the government needed Rs 75 Billion for development. It was to justify the Bond Auction.
When Additional Solicitor General wanted to know the reason as to the origin of such a letter the Minister explained the situation he had as the Finance Minister in the beginning of the 2015.
He said that there was an unaccounted debt in balance and an outstanding repayment amounting Rs. 100 billion, when they assumed duties as the new Government in 2015.
The witness said there was a meeting on February 26, 2015 with Malik Samarawickrama and Kabir Hashim over the fund requirement of Rs. 75 billion for road development projects.
The meeting was held prior to the controversial bond auction that took place on February 27, 2015.
When questioned he confirmed that there was no sudden need to raise money in February but the funds were required for the payments in RDA projects.
The witness said Mahendran requested him to send a letter relating to what happened at the February 26, 2015 meeting between the three ministers and thereby he had sent the letter in May 2016.
Karunanayake said the not dating of the letter was an “oversight”. He said Minister Kabir Hashim and Malik Samarawickrama were aware of the letter.
The Attorney Generals also pointed out that Karunanayake and Aloysius had travelled to Singapore and Malaysia at the same time on 13 occasions after June 2015. Karunanayake first said that he never met Aloysius, and thereafter said he must have met him “once” and then said “twice or thrice”.
Regarding the apartment, Karunanayake played complete ignorance. he said that he did not know how the apartment, which he currently lives in at the Monarch residency was paid for.
He said he never asked his wife nor his daughter as to who paid for it. He said that it was not “his business”.
Justice Prasanna Jayawardena said he was amazed that the family could live in a single house and the Minister being the Minster of finance didn’t ask as to how the apartment was paid for.
Karunanayake first said that he came to know about the Aloysius connection with the apartment following Anika Wijesuriya‘s testimony. Later however he admitted that he knew about it since July 2016 when Mahindananda Aluthgamage brought the Penthouse up in parliament.
However, the AG failed to ask Karunanayake as to what he did after the questioning in July. The Penthouse was brought by Karunanayake’s connected company much after July.
Justice Prasanna Jayawardena asked if it was rational to think that his daughters and wife did not know that there would be a conflict of interest by using the money of Aloysius who was already in the middle of the controversy following the Bond auction in 2015.
Karunanayake said his daughters and wife “don’t know politics”.
When asked as to how the funds were raised to purchase the apartment, Karunanayake said that it was through the Company Global Transport Logistics (GTL), of which his wife and daughter are Directors.
Then Jayawardena said that he had gone through the accounts of GTL for the last two years and could not find a single note on the transaction.
Karunanayake further said that there “may be no accounts in any bank for the sum”, after being asked by Jayawardena as to if there was any sort of document to show the transaction.
Jayawardena also said that it was highly unusual for the Minister of Finance to not have known basic norms in such process. He also said that it was unusual for Karunanayake not to be aware of how the house he lived in was bought.
Prasanna Jayawardena, the Commissioner, asked if Karunanayake was aware of how money laundering worked. This was after Karunanayake said that the money for the apartment was given by Lakshmi Kanthan, the Chairman of his company, for which there was no account. Karunanayake said that he trusted the Chairman of the Company to which Jayawardena said that “trusting Chairmans is not a good thing”. he also told Karunanayake that he was a the Finance Minister and should have known how the money was brought in.