Ravi-Arjun nexus Opening a can of worms

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By 2017-08-13

By a Special Correspondent

Former Finance Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister to resign (under duress, of course) and become a simple Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake has now gone on to create, what he claims to be a "new proud political culture". However, Karunanayake's destiny would have taken a complete turn even before he became a Cabinet Minister, if he was charged properly and heard in a Court of Law.

Then of course, his fate would not have been the adoration of the mindless sheep, but the steel bars of Welikada Prison.

In 2006 and 2007, Raj Rajaratnam and his controversial Galleon Group were accused of hedge funds worth of USD three million invested in a local private bank, without prior authorization from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) was revealed. For advocating this act, the then Attorney General's Department filed a Foreign Exchange Fraud case against Lincoln Piyasena, Nexia Coporate Consultants and of course, Ravi Karunanayake. However, due to several obvious technical obstacles the Court case never saw the light of day, resulting in the release of all suspects. But one thing was made clear by the Judge presiding the order- Colombo High Court Judge W. Airangani Perera – who highlighted that the nature of the crime remains unchanged. The proper response in this matter would have been to submit a revised Injunction Order. That never happened.

Scandal

These are the events that led Ravi Karunanayake to easily become the Finance Minister of the Yahapalana Government in 2015. This is where he met Arjun Aloysius. From there on, he has now gone on to commit another scandal that has resulted in the current political predicament in the country.

Kattar Aloysius is one of the financial pioneers of the United National Party. Hailing from Tamil Nadu, Kattar Aloysius started his career selling dried fish. There is a website dedicated to the extended Kattar family which hails from South India. It shows that Kattar Aloysius, whom they call the patriarch, was much loved and respected. The senior Aloysius was close to Ranasinghe Premadasa. He is also the grandfather of Arjun Aloysius.

Arjun Aloysius and his Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. became a primary dealer in Treasury Bond auctions of the CBSL during the Mahinda Rajapaksa tenure. This is through the close relationship between Arjun Aloysius and the then CBSL Governor Ajith Nivaad Cabral.

This relationship as well is surrounded by mystery and vile conspiracies and financial scams that have never been investigated.

Following the registration of Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. as a Primary Dealer of the CBSL with the assistance of the Central Bank Governor, his sister Siromi Cabraal is conveniently appointed as a director of the PTL for a seven digit salary.

The roots of the Ravi-Arjun relationship do not run deep. Certainly not through generations as the former Finance Minister testified before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry earlier this month. The two supposedly met during the presidential election of 2014 and 2015 when the United National Party (UNP) was faced with the risk of losing the election despite the powers of the Common Candidate, Maithirpala Sirisena. Even though by this time, the Aloysius family's main alliance was with the Rajapaksa Government, Arjun Aloysius immediately supported the UNP campaign by providing Rs. 200 million to Ravi Karunanayake to 'purchase' a strategically important defector of the opposing side. To play it safe, he was thoughtful enough to provide Rs 150 million to the Rajapaksa campaign as well.

We do not proceed to assume that it was Arjun Aloysius's money that achieved victory to the Yahapalana campaign of the UNP and the Common Candidate, but it would be obvious to note that it certainly did have a strategic importance.

Thus, the Yahapalana Government takes the country's seat of power, Common Candidate Maithripala Sirisena is sworn in as the President, Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister and Ravi Karunanayake as the Finance Minister. The Central Bank Governor of the Yahapalana Government is the ever controversial Arjun Mahendran; the father-in-law of Arjun Aloysius. Thus, Arjun Aloysius's foot in the Government's door has worked and now he is in with the big fish.

Presidential Commission

The friendship between Ravi Karunanayake and Arjun Aloysius, as revealed at the Presidential Commission, had gone to the extent where the two had flown overseas together on 13 separate occasions. There were occasions where Aloysius had represented Karunanayake as a proxy for investor meetings on many occasions and played an integral part in diplomatic missions overseas. And of course, Aloysius seems to have reciprocated to Karunanayake's kindness as well.

Aloysius at 28, was CEO of Perpetual Asset Management and Deputy Chairman of W. M. Mendis and Company as well as a Board Member of Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC). Aloysius had entered both Mendis and HDFC Boards by virtue of Perpetual Capital acquiring large stakes in each. Mendis and Company in 2015 introduced three new brands to its already vast collection in a grand ceremony at the Galle Face Hotel. And lo and behold it was the Finance Minister of the country that had been invited as the chief guest of the event. Additionally, it was the Aloysius's rice-based alcohol factory in Batticaloa, which received the current administration's fastest approval after coming to power.

Alcohol factory

However, even before the approval for the alcohol factory was granted by the Cabinet of Ministers, Aloysiu's spirit business was thriving without any proper authorization. The company had manufactured alcohol in Beruwala, while it was bottled at a plant in Welisara. The toddy that was sourced for the manufacture of this low quality alcohol which had severe medical consequences on its consumers was provided from Nattandiya, Marawila and Chilaw. In a general sense, there are severe and strict legal procedures that are followed when transporting alcohol around the country. However, these procedures have never been a problem for Aloysius's bowsers which transported moonshine under the guise of toddy.

The sales were carried out under special provisions as well. Under Excise taxation laws, the taxes have to be paid every 15 days without any delay or exception. Unsurprisingly, Aloysius's company has evaded Rs 380 million in excise taxes since 15 July. As the Voice against Corruption pointed out that tax evasion exceeds Rs 600 million by the end of that month.

An individual so undisciplined that he cannot even run his own company as per the laws of the country has broken into the country's own Central Bank. Question remains however, as to who cleared Arjun Aloysius, this 33-year-old businessman, a Rs 10 billion lease from the Bank of Ceylon without any appeal letter, any witnesses, any collateral or any other documents.

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