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Chief Dealer says PTL paid informants millions


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  • Codenames Charlie, Car and Tango used for informants 
  • Charlie allegedly paid Rs. 94 m in 2014
  • Commission observes bribes paid to informants since 17 July 2014 onward during Governor Cabraal’s tenure and thereafter
  • Further Rs. 3 m allegedly paid to Charlie in March 2015

By Himal Kotelawala

Appearing once again before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the controversial bond issuance, Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. (PTL) Chief Dealer Nuwan Salgado testified yesterday that the company had been bribing unidentified informants for price sensitive information pertaining to Treasury bonds since around the time of its inception.

Commissioner Justice Prasanna Jayawardena observed that, between 17 July 2014 and 30 December 2014, when Ajith Nivard Cabraal was Governor of the Central Bank, PTL had made 18 payments amounting to approximately Rs. 94 million to a primary person of contact at the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) codenamed Charlie.

According to the document, as testified by Salgado, the last payment made to Charlie was Rs. 3 million by “[group company] Mendis, Chair and the rest” on 10 March 2015 - amounting to Rs. 97 million in total paid to the EPF contact person alone.

The regularly updated document maintained by Salgado, on the instructions of PTL CEO Kasun Palisena, it was revealed, contained a breakdown of payments made to several parties including Charlie and two other individuals codenamed Car and Tango via group companies Perpetual Assets, Perpetual Capital and W A. Mendis. 

The document, submitted by Salgado to the CID on 3 October this year, describes the three mysterious individuals as informants, though the witness said, seemingly in hindsight, it was a word he should not have typed in.

“When dealing, for the purpose of anonymity, we used to call the primary person of contact at the EPF Charlie,” said Salgado, adding that the codename did not change in the event the contact person changed.

Salgado was unable to identify the alleged informants named Car or Tango, but Deputy Solicitor General Milinda Gunatillake, having played back to the witness a recording of a quick telephone call, noted that Salgado, Palisena and other dealers had referred to a Charlie until September 2015.

DSG Gunatillake then recalled that, until September 2015, the EPF Chief Dealer had been one Mr. Udayaseelan, after which Indika Saman Kumara took over duties (Saman Kumara’s relationship to former Governor Arjuna Mahendran has figured prominently in the proceedings on several occasions, with Saman Kumara himself testifying before the Commission on Wednesday, this week).

Responding to a question by Gunatillake, Salgado said, to his knowledge, only he and Palisena had known about the document and there had been “certain updates made” on occasion with outward payments tracked, leading the witness to believe that the payments could’ve been for consideration with regard to confidential “price sensitive information that PTL could’ve received.”

Two other codenamed individuals, Little Johnny and Wolverine, were also mentioned, the former being used mainly to refer to the contact person at the Employees’ Trust Fund (ETF) and on occasion to Kaveen Karunamurthi of DFCC and the latter a reference to the National Savings Bank point of contact, who, at the time, had been Naveen Anuradha.

A further updated document should be in Salgadu’s computer, he said, which would contain an updated payment schedule to Charlie and whomever else.

Justice Jayawardena, at this point questioned the witness on how the funds mentioned in the document were realised, and the mechanism behind it.

“This is an outflow from their (the respective group company’s) investment held with us. They have a repo investment running with us,” said Salgadu, adding that, for example, the asset will “request 3 million or whatever from us and they’ll take it out.”

Asked how he knew the money went to the informant, Salgadu said he did not know if the money did in fact go to this person, but when he was asked to update it under that category, he did so.

However, he agreed that a large sum of money had been paid to Charlie, whoever it may have been.

Said Justice Jayawardena: “These details show that from 17 July 2014, very shortly after PTL started operations, PTL has been paying an informant named Charlie a sum of money which runs into over Rs. Rs. 90 million.”

“Yes,” said Salgado.

This stretched from 17 July 2014 throughout the entirety of that year, continued Justice Jayawardena, asking the witness if Udayaseelan had been dealing in the EPF that year and if PTL had been actively dealing with the EPF at the time. Salgado responded in the affirmative.

Asked again if PTL had been obtaining sensitive information from the EPF’s Charlie during the entirety of 2014, Salgadu said yes, but added that he could not be certain if the Charlie he and his colleagues had referred to in trading was in fact the same Charlie mentioned in the document.

“[On the basis of this document], between 17 July 2014 to 30 December 2014, there are 18 payments amounting to approximately Rs. 94 million made to EPF, correct?” said Justice Jayawardena, adding that it this was the time when Nivard Cabraal was Governor and outside the commission’s period of reference. The commission was interested in the period starting from February 2015, he said.

“Did this practice of paying the informant in the EPF continue in 2015?” asked the Commissioner.

“Yes,” said the witness, once again noting that he could not be certain if it was the same Charlie.

“But as far as you know, Charlie means EPF?”

“Yes.”

Salgado was unable to answer if the informants codenamed Car and Tango had also been from state institutions, but did not deny that they too had received payments from 2014 onwards.

“So basically then it is seen that from the time PTL started its operations, it has been bribing informants,” said Justice Jayawardena.

“That’s correct,” said the witness.

Salgado is to be questioned by attorneys representing PTL today.

 

 


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