With completion of auditing process
Central Bank to start Golden Key repayments within two weeks

The long-awaited process of repaying Golden Key depositors is expected to begin within the next fortnight in terms of the Supreme Court directive, a senior Central Bank official announced last week.

"We are now auditing all deposits up to one million rupees to start settling 75% of their value with a maximum ceiling of 100,000 rupees", he said.

This means that a depositor who had invested one million rupees at Golden Key will receive only 100,000 rupees, he explained. "On the other hand, those who had deposited 100,000 rupees will receive 75,000 rupees".

Though the Golden Key repayment plan, as approved by the Supreme Court, received wide media exposure, what most people didn’t know was that there was a maximum ceiling of 100,000 rupees, he pointed out.

"So, it was wrong to assume that people who had invested one million rupees would get 750,000 rupees with the repayment of 75% of their investment, as there exists a maximum ceiling", the official elaborated.

Repayments will be done on a "bottom up" basis starting with the lowest value, he noted. "We will start with those who had deposited the minimum 10,000 rupees".

As per the Supreme Court order, the process of repaying the specified quantum to depositors up to one million rupees should be completed within a three-month time-frame. Thereafter, the second category of depositors up to two million rupees would be completed within six months. The others will be settled within a year.

"The first lot of cheques will roll out as soon as the ongoing auditing process is finalized", he assured. "We need to wait at least another fortnight for that to happen".

The majority of deposits are believed to be in the 2.5 million rupees and 7 million rupees range.

The repayments, long-awaited by struggling depositors of this Ceylinco subsidiary which crashed in December 2008, are being worked out amidst the release of Chairman Lalith Kotelawala and Deputy Chairperson Padmini Karunanayake from remand custody under stringent bail conditions by the Supreme Court.

Both Kotelawala and Karunanayake, who were on remand for the past nine months in connection with the 26 billion rupee Golden Key scam, have been directed by court to assist the process of repaying all dues of investors. They would be re-remanded if they violated the tough bail conditions.

Kotelawala was released on cash bail of five million rupees and sureties of 100 million rupees by five taxpayers. He was directed by court not to go out of the Western Province or go abroad and not to interfere with the investigations. He was also ordered to report to the CID once a week. His passport was also impounded.

He also submitted an affidavit to court declaring his assets in Sri Lanka including Sea Sands Hotel, and overseas. He was directed not transfer his assets from one company to any other within the group

The task of paying back depositors has been entrusted to the Golden Key Secretariat which operates in the Central Bank under the direction of Chief Operating Officer (COO), J. P. R. Karunaratne.

Some of the identified assets of the Ceylinco Chairman and other directors are also expected to go under the hammer to raise funds to settle depositors as the money already in the ‘dedicated account’ is grossly insufficient, the official said.

Earlier, the three-judge bench headed by Justice Shirani Thilakawardane and comprising Justices P. A. Ratnayake and S. I. Imam directed the immediate seizure of 259 million rupees in the personal bank account of Mrs. Sicille Kotelawala. In addition, 110 million rupees in Kotelawala’s account and 240 million rupees belonging to Ceylinco Consolidated were also taken over.

The Supreme Court has paved the way for the Ceylinco assets and properties already valued by the Government Valuer to be disposed of on a subsequent order from the district court.

The International Police (INTERPOL) are on the lookout for Sicille Kotelawala against whom a judicial arrest warrant has been issued in Sri Lanka, but no headway has been made even almost a year since she left the country.

She is suspected to be either in Singapore, United Kingdom, Australia or Cyprus – the four countries which have come under focus.

The collapse of Golden Key saw a series of street protests in recent months. There were also instances of some helpless depositors committing suicide as they had lost their life-long savings. Depositors have been denied their capital plus interest on their investments since the company crashed in December 2008.

Meanwhile, the Trade Union of Golden Key has complained to the Labour Tribunal on behalf of 510 employees who had been denied their salaries since February 2009. They had not been paid any gratuity either.

The case was taken up for hearing many times but had to be put off as Golden Key was not represented, a trade union source said.

The Fundamental Rights (FR) case will be taken up for hearing again before the Supreme Court on December 17, 2009.

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