Cabraal says allegations against him ‘baseless and misfounded’

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The Media Secretary of former CBSL Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, issuing a statement to the Media on 23 May 2022, commented on the private plaint filed in the Magistrate’s Court by Keerthi Tennekoon.

Following is the full statement:

“The Private Plaint filed by Mr. Keerthi Tennekoon (complainant) against Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal (respondent) was scheduled to be taken up on 2nd May 2022 before the Honourable Magistrate Mr. Harshana Kekunuwela at the Colombo Magistrate’s Court No. 4. However, that day was declared a public holiday by the Government, and hence certain cases, including the private plaint under reference fixed for that day were postponed by the Court authorities to 25th July 2022.

“A few days later, the complainant and his Counsel had sought to advance the hearing in this particular case, and, based on an ex-parte application, it had been reported that the Court had granted an earlier date of 23rd May 2022 for the case to be called. In that regard, the respondent had to be notified to be present in Court on that date by way of an official Court summons. However, as at 22nd May 2022, such summons had not been served on the respondent personally ordering him to be present in Court. Nevertheless, upon learning that this matter may be taken up at the Honourable Magistrate’s Court on 23rd May 2022, even though summons had not been served on the respondent, out of an abundance of caution, Mr. Cabraal’s lawyers Mr. Shavendra Fernando, PC and Mr Jeevantha Jayatilake, Senior Counsel, were present in Court and explained to Court the serious circumstances in the country that had resulted in the respondent having to be away from his residence. They also assured Court that the respondent would be present in Court on the scheduled date of 25th July 2022, as previously fixed by the Court authorities.

“On that day, the respondent’s lawyers would comprehensively refute the complainant’s allegations, and make it clear that such allegations levelled by the complainant are false &/or misfounded &/or politically-motivated &/or malicious.

“In this context, with regard to the complainant’s allegations, it is noted that the same complainant (Mr. Keerthi Tennekoon) had previously filed a Petition in the Court of Appeal on 14th September 2021 based on certain alleged “findings” in a “Forensic Audit Report” dated 8th November 2019 carried out by an Indian company, “BDO India LLP”, pertaining to the issuance of Treasury Bonds and the conduct of Primary Dealers from 2010 to 2017. In that case too, Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal was named as a respondent. That Petition had been since dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 3rd November 2021. This vital information has however been suppressed from the Magistrate’s Court by the complainant, and it is very likely that, if the complainant had properly disclosed the Court of Appeal Order to the Honourable Magistrate, this allegation in the private plaint would not have even been entertained.

“It is also noted that another allegation of Mr. Tennakoon pertains to a payment of USD 6.5 million made by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) in respect of a Communication Programme of the GOSL with a US National, Mr. Imaad Zuberi. In that context, as the banker to the government, the payments made by the CBSL on behalf of the GOSL have been made on the official written instructions of the appropriate government authority, and the respective payment protocols and procedures had been followed by the CBSL when making these payments. Therefore, there has been no procedural or other violation in making these payments on behalf of the GOSL, and accordingly, this allegation of the complainant is also not sustainable.

“Mr. Tennakoon’s next allegation refers to the settlement of the GOSL’s USD 500m International Sovereign Bond (ISB) that matured on 18th January 2022, where it has been claimed that such settlement was done by the respondent notwithstanding the advice of various experts, in order to enable certain unspecified investors to make undue profits. In this context, it must be clearly understood that settling or not settling the country’s sovereign debt is not a matter where a single individual can arbitrarily decide. It is of course possible that self-proclaimed experts (who bear no responsibility for their unsolicited advice) could advocate the non-payment of Sri Lanka’s foreign loans, including a maturing ISB.

However, such unofficial requests cannot be acted upon by responsible government officials without a formal direction or order from the Government (the Borrower) and perhaps even the approval of Parliament since funds for “debt servicing” had already been appropriated by Parliament when it approved the Budget 2022. Further, at the time in question, the official Government policy was to pay its sovereign debt diligently, which policy, the Ministry of Finance and the CBSL had followed faithfully since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. Needless to say, such policy could not have been unilaterally abrogated by the Governor of the CBSL on 18th January 2022 as claimed by the complainant, and therefore this allegation too, is baseless and misfounded.”