The crooked General

(@ Sunday Leader/ By Frederica Jansz )

Irrefutable evidence has finally surfaced of the ill begotten wealth of former Deputy Defence Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte. The chief suspect in a conspiracy to massacre 10 Muslim youth last December, Ratwatte this time figures in a financial scandal that may well be his final calling card.

Acting on a tip-off last Wednesday, August 28, sleuths from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) raided the private vaults of Ratwatte, his wife Ramani and her son, Shivan Kanageeswaran.  Shivan is Ramani's son from her first marriage.

A haul of Rs. 43 million was counted by way of certificates of deposits. Stashed away in a private bank, the monetary haul is by no way ill begotten because it amounts to Rs. 43 million, but because, Anuruddha Ratwatte has not declared how this money was obtained. Initially, 31.7 million was discovered and later on Friday another Rs. 11.6 million counted.

Amidst allegations that Anuruddha Ratwatte has long sought to ensure the war in Sri Lanka continues due to vested interests, three vaults in the names of Anuruddha, his wife Ramani and her son Shivan Kanageeswaran were discovered at a private bank last week.

Suspicion

There is nothing illegal in these certificates of deposits provided Anuruddha and Ramani Ratwatte can account for the monies and explain how they came by it.  Anuruddha himself will be removed from all suspicion if he can prove that he has in fact declared these deposits in his declaration of assets and liabilities to parliament.

The Sunday Leader however is in a position to prove that Anuruddha Ratwatte has not declared these monies as he was required to do by law to parliament. In fact he has in writing specifically said no to having any certificates of deposits, according to our investigations.

It will be recalled how The Sunday Leader exposed a house transaction of Ratwatte in 1998 and at that time, Anuruddha, who was a cabinet minister, came out with some convoluted logic to justify the purchase.

It will also be recalled how President Chandrika Kumaratunga herself publicly accused Anuruddha Ratwatte of being the biggest rogue in her government to an IMF delegation which was led by a member from Washington, Jeremy Carter and the IMF resident representative in Sri Lanka, Nadeem Ul Haque.

However, the president chose not to remove a minister she considered corrupt from her cabinet and Anuruddha Ratwatte chose not to challenge Kumaratunga despite it being published in The Sunday Leader.

Now comes the certificate of deposit scandal.  To our knowledge the declaration of assets and liabilities state that under this law, you are required to declare truthfully and in detail the assets and liabilities of yourself, your spouse and each of your 'children' (who are under the age of 18).

Ratwatte, according to our investigations, has not declared the stashed millions by way of certificates of deposits, making him liable under the bribery law. It is an open and shut case.

The CID were initially tipped off that a large quantity of heroin and small arms in three lockers of a sealed vault were lying hidden inside a private bank, on Tuesday, August 27. The source whispered that the vaults belonged to the infamous General Ratwatte and his wife.

What led to this information being revealed was the  internecine warfare within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the People's Alliance.

Upon the information being received, Director, CID, Lionel Gunatilleke directed the OIC, CID, Chief Inspector Senaka Kumarasinghe to report the fact to the Fort Magistrate, Priyantha Fernando and seek a warrant to search the vault of the private bank.

By this time (late Tuesday) court had adjourned, and Kumarasinghe instead called at Magistrate Priyantha Fernando's residence and obtained a warrant to carry out the search on the following day.

Accordingly, a CID team led by M. A. Gnanarathne visited the R. A. de Mel Mawatha office of the bank in order to execute the warrant and search the vaults in question.

Prior to doing so, the authorities of the bank as well as Ramani Ratwatte were informed  and had been present at the time of opening the vault.

At that time Anuruddha Ratwatte was closeted in a closed-door discussion with Mangala Samaraweera and the JVP's Wimal Weeravansha inside the president's chambers in parliament stirring up another controversy.

Vault No. 1008, belonging to Anuruddha and Ramani Ratwatte, is listed under the address No. B 12, Stanmore Crescent, Colombo 7.  This was Ratwatte's official residence during the regime of the PA and this proves that this vault was operative from that time.

The second vault bearing No. 654, belongs to Ramani Imbuldeniya which is the maiden name of Ratwatte's wife.  This vault too carries the same address as the first.

The third vault bearing No. 278, is in the name of Shivan Kanageeswaran and Ramani Imbuldeniya.  The resident address given in this instance is No. 104, Isipathana Mawatha, Colombo 5.

Neither of the lockers had any small arms or heroin. However, there was a stash of different bank certificate deposits in the first vault, which is in the name of Anuruddha Ratwatte and Ramani Ratwatte.  All the certificates amounting to Rs. 43 million bear maturity after the December 5, 2001 general election (see box for details).

Initially, while the CID officers had been counting part of the loot,  Anuruddha Ratwatte had arrived on the scene, having been telephoned by his wife, and strongly objected, shouting at the CID officers, "Why are you trying to defame me?"

Berating Officer Gnanarathne loudly and bitterly on Wednesday, he  prevented the sleuths from opening 17 other envelopes where there were more certificates of deposits running into several millions. As a result, the CID were unable to check the total amount of monies all these deposits held until Friday, when the count was concluded.

Contents

In Vault 654, which is in the name of Ramani Imbuldeniya, there was an empty jewellery box, some birth certificates and a couple of marriage certificates - all of which the CID duly recorded.

The third vault which is in the name of Shevan Kanageeswaran and Ramani Imbuldeniya had Commercial Bank certificates.

The CID had counted upto Rs. 31.7 million worth of certificates of deposits in the vault owned by Anuruddha Ratwatte until he personally arrived on the scene and stopped them from continuing their work on Wednesday.

The CID had by this time arrived at the conclusion that from available public knowledge, both Anuruddha Ratwatte and his wife Ramani could not have legally amassed this amount of wealth.

In a report to court on Thursday, August 29, the CID pointed out that Anuruddha Ratwatte came to parliament in 1989, and thereafter became a minister only in 1994. Therefore, he could not have amassed such wealth legally.

Meanwhile, the CID officers after being forced to stop their search midway on Wednesday, however kept a couple of sleuths on the spot to guard against any interference with the vaults and left the bank. The statements of both Anuruddha and Ramani Ratwatte were duly recorded.

The sleuths continued with their search on Friday, August 30, after having secured permission from Magistrate Priyantha Fernando to do so.

The question is whether the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption will probe the matter of whether indeed Anuruddha and his wife are guilty of both bribery and corruption.

Ratwatte, according to The Sunday Leader investigations, had in fact stated in his declaration of assets and liabilities to parliament after the conclusion of the general election on December 5, 2001, that he nor his spouse has any money in savings certificates, tax reserve certificates or government securities.

Ratwatte's claims

According to information in the possession of The Sunday Leader, Anuruddha Ratwatte claims to earn a salary of only Rs. 29,815 per month and also claims that his wife Ramani is neither employed nor has she a salary or allowance of any kind per month.

His income tax file bearing number 52/558-3/1 and that of his wife bearing number W56/9108-27 will bear this out.

According to investigations carried out by The Sunday Leader, Ratwatte claims to have a joint account bearing number 18666 at Hatton National Bank, Kandy, with a credit balance of only Rs. 242,504.95.

Likewise, The Sunday Leader learns that he claims to have in the Bank of Ceylon branch at parliament in his current account number 644-1-210-60000219-6, a sum of only Rs. 46,904.53.

He further claims to have taken a loan of Rs. 9 million in May 1997, from Sinhaputhra Finance Company Limited.

Anuruddha Ratwatte also claims to have opened a letter of credit for a new Mercedes Benz in June 2001 for Rs. 1,400,000.

As for property, The Sunday Leader learns he claims his properties as being at 249/1, Katugastota Road, Babilakotuwawatte; Rathmalkanda Estate, Nuwarawela; 101, Mapanawathura Lane, Kandy; Riverdale Road, Aniwatte, Kandy and 38, Galkanda Road, Aniwatte, Kandy.

There is no disclosure of the sale of these properties to account for the purchase of the certificates of deposit. Indeed he has according to all records said there were no such certificates owned by him. To that extent he has lied.

It is interesting to see whether Ratwatte in his declaration of assets and liabilities to parliament in part B '5' has specified details of the certificates of deposits found at the private bank last week.

This section raises the question: "Had you, your spouse or any of your children invested any money in savings certificates, tax reserve certificates or government securities? If so state:-"

If he has not declared these items, he would be in breach of the law and would be liable for charges of corruption.

The Sunday Leader understands that at the time Anuruddha Ratwatte was compelled to declare such monies he chose not to disclose details of his hidden haul of wealth in the way of bank certificate deposits.

We challenge Anuruddha Ratwatte to produce his assets declaration form and prove us wrong.

Five requests

Meanwhile, the CID, subsequently filed a report in the Fort Magistrate's Court on Thursday, August 29, seeking five requests from the magistrate.

One, seeking permission from court to seal the vault in the bank in order to carry out further investigations.  Two, to direct Anuruddha and Ramani Ratwatte to divulge all details of the monies in this vault as well as in any other vaults.

Three, to issue summons on Anuruddha Ratwatte for obstructing the work of the CID officers when they were carrying out an investigation after having secured a magistrate's warrant to do so. Four, to order the Ratwatte couple to disclose all other information in relation to all other vaults in their names and five, to be allowed to file action on this issue.

Magistrate Priyantha Fernando granted permission to all the requests except the one seeking summons on Anuruddha Ratwatte for obstructing the work of the CID officers. Fernando had intimated that this request will be referred to the attorney general for an opinion.

The CID meanwhile also met with Acting Attorney General, C. R. De Silva on Thursday and sought his advice on the matter.

It seems Ratwatte has finally met his waterloo.

  Certificates of deposits

The certificates of deposits found in the initial search:

Vault No 1008

Hatton National Bank

Certificate Number Date of Maturity            Monetary Value

O. 005506            2002.09.19        Rs. 5,500,000

O. 011563            2002.09.19        Rs.     500,000

C. 011570            2001.12.10        Rs.     500,000

C. 011571            2001.12.10        Rs.     500,000

A.045024            2001.12.10        Rs.     500,000

O.11584 - 11587            2002.03.01        Rs.     500,000

D.005523 - D.005525            2001.03.01        Rs.  3,000,000

C.0011595 - C.0011598            2002.03.18        Rs.  2,000,000

C.011603            2002.04.12        Rs.     500,000

C.011604            2002.04.12        Rs.     500,000

Commercial Bank

023255            2001.12.24        Rs.     500,000

02647            2001.12.24        Rs.     500,000

023253            2001.12.24        Rs.     500,000

023254            2001.12.24        Rs.     500,000

023268 - 023271            2003.02.05        Rs.  2,000,000

024289            2003.04.11        Rs.     500,000

024290            2003.04.11        Rs.     500,000

023258            2002.12.27        Rs.     500,000

Pan Asia Bank

001027            2003.01.18        Rs.     500,000

001028            2003.01.18        Rs.     500,000

001029            2003.01.18        Rs.     500,000

001030            2003.01.18        Rs.     500,000

Pramuka Bank

00651            2001.12.26        Rs.     500,000

00658            2001.12.26        Rs.     500,000

00653            2001.12.26        Rs.     500,000

00654            2001.12.26        Rs.     500,000

The Finance Company Limited

291014 - 291033            2003.01.22        Rs. 2,000,000

Sampath Bank

000041 to 000048            2002.05.03        Rs. 4,000,000

 

CID Director Lionel Gunatilleke's letter to Minister John Amaratunga

On Thursday, August 28, Director, CID, Lionel Gunatilleke wrote to Interior Minister, John Amaratunga on this matter.

Excerpts from the letter reads thus:

"On certain information received that a large quantity of heroin and small arms are concealed in three lockers of the safe deposit vault of the Hatton National Bank, Nawam Mawatha, a search warrant was obtained from Magistrate's Court, Fort, and the lockers were checked by a police party from the CID on August 28, commencing from 0830 hrs.

On checking the lockers, it was revealed that there was no heroin or small arms, but the CID found certificates of deposits in two lockers. The said lockers belong to General Anuruddha Ratwatte, Mrs. Ramani Ratwatte and Mr. Shevan Kanageewaran (son of Mrs. Ratwatte).

At the time the lockers were being checked, General Ratwatte had arrived at the bank and objected to the CID obtaining details of the certificates of deposit that were in 17 envelopes."