COPE report won’t be the basis for AG’s decision

Central bank of Sri Lanka

The much touted COPE report that dealt with the alleged Central Bank bond scam involving primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries in Feb 2015 couldn’t be the basis for the Attorney General’s Department decision whether to proceed with a criminal or civil case, authoritative sources said.

JVP National List MP Sunil Handunetti headed the COPE comprising members of all political parties represented in parliament.

Of course the report could be perused and taken into consideration but a decision couldn’t be made solely on it, sources told The Island.

Recently President Maithripala Sirisena declared that he had called for criminal proceedings instead of civil case in respect of the alleged bond scam. The declaration was made on the basis that the AG had decided on a civil case after Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Office submitted the COPE report to the AG late last year. Last month, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, too, sent a copy of the report to the AG following the parliament reaching a consensus in respect of the report.

In addition to MP Handunetti’s report, the AG could also study the first COPE inquiry undertaken in 2015 by its previous Head and Communist Party Leader D.E.W. Gunasekera, as well as an internal Central Bank examination conducted by the Public Debt Department.

However, there hadn’t been investigations into March 2016 bond scams at any level, sources said.

The AG couldn’t under any circumstances decide on Central Bank bond scam on the basis of findings and recommendations made by the parliamentary watchdog committee, sources said. It would be pertinent to mention that in terms of the law, the AG couldn’t conduct or direct investigations, sources said. “The AG can only advice.”

Asked to explain the AG’s role, sources said that a decision could be made only on the basis of a criminal investigation undertaken by law enforcement authorities, sources said. However, the police hadn’t initiated an inquiry into the bond scam yet though the alleged fraud was revealed in the run-up to the last parliamentary polls in Aug. 2015.

The country was repeatedly told that action against bond thieves could be taken on the basis of the COPE report.

Sources said that as the previous government had introduced an amendment to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) Act in 2008, the AG could now take a decision on the basis of CoI findings, in addition to police inquiry.

President Sirisena appointed a three-member CoI consisting of Supreme Court Judges Kankani Tantri Chitrasiri and  Prasanna Sujeewa Jayawardena and retired deputy Auditor General Velupillai Kandasamy to inquire into bond scam.

Responding to a query, sources said that with the appointment of the Presidential Commission a separate police inquiry wouldn’t be necessary.

The Commission could obtain the services of either serving or retired law enforcement officers to assist it with an investigation.

Sources said that the CoI could conduct a criminal investigation or direct law enforcement authorities to launch one. Sources said that the sittings could be either opened to the public or in camera and the CoI’s findings along with recommendations submitted to President Sirisena. “President Sirisena can thereafter forward the recommendations along with the notes of investigations and inquiry proceedings to the AG to enable him to consider instituting criminal and civil legal proceedings against the wrongdoers.”

The AG would decide on Penal Code Offences, including offences relating to public property as well as civil actionable wrongs, sources said. Civil case meant that the State had suffered losses or third party benefited at the expense of the State.

Sources said that in case an official or a group of Central Bank officials had colluded with Perpetual Treasuries it would come under the purview of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC). “Investigation and prosecution of possible instance of corruption should be entirely handled by the CIABOC.”

Although, The Island sought an explanation from the CIABOC regarding accusations of undue delay in its investigations into the Central Bank bond scam, a response hadn’t been received at the time this edition went to press.

UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera and MP Jagath Pushpakumara on behalf of the SLFP lodged a complaint with the CIABOC in early March 2015 against the central Bank fraud.

A group of professionals on Thursday protested opposite the CIABOC demanding that investigations be expedited. They alleged their complaint lodged three months ago hadn’t been investigated.
Sources said that the CIABOC could proceed with court action on its own.

(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)