Lalith Kotelawala seeks repossession of his ‘seized’ personal assets

Files motion in SC as Minister assures Golden Key repayments



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by Suresh Perera


Former Ceylinco Chairman, Lalith Kotelawala filed a motion in the Supreme Court (SC) seeking the release of all his personal assets seized on judicial directives since 2010 in connection with the Golden Key (GK) debacle, officials said last week.


The motion, running into some 140 pages, lists all the assets seized on the orders of the SC from time to time, but have still not been disposed of to raise funds to reimburse GK investors, they said.


The value of the personal assets and properties detailed by Kotelawala run into billions of rupees and the long list include super luxury apartments, three floors in the Ceylinco Limited building, S&L Company and his upmarket residence at Elibank Road, Colombo 5, the officials asserted. The personal assets of Kotelawala and seven other directors, Mrs. Sicille Kotelawala, Kavan Perera, Saradha Sumanasekera,Suramya Karunaratne, Mrs. Padmini Karunanayake, Daniel Jegasothy, Bandula Ranaweera and Neranjan Fernando, were acquired on judicial directives in the ongoing FR action filed by 29 depositors in the SC.


The other directors are also in the process of filing similar motions seeking court approval to re-possess their properties, it is learnt.


"We will be raising strong objections in the SC against any move to return the assets of Kotelawala and other directors", says Dushanthi Hapugoda, president, All GKCC Depositors’ Association.


How can the repayment process be implemented if there are no assets to liquidate and raise funds?, she queried. "After a long-drawn battle, we cannot allow the directors to have the last laugh".


Of course, there won’t be any objections if Kotelawala returns our investments, she explained. "If we get our money, he can have his assets back".


Kotelawala’s fresh bid to wrest control of his assets comes in the backdrop of Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s intervention to grant possible relief to depositors of this Ceylinco subsidiary which crashed in 2008.


The Minister told Parliament on Thursday that the repayment process he has initiated could begin from Monday itself without waiting until the next court hearing. He said that funds are not available at present to settle investors, but there may be new ways of raising liquid cash for this purpose.


There are more assets which can be acquired and liquidated to honor the financial commitment towards depositors, he noted. "We will be placing the repayment plan before the SC".


When the FR plea resumed hearing before the SC last Monday, counsel for the depositors said the cases filed by 29 aggrieved petitioners cannot be withdrawn without a categorical assurance undertaking repayments being presented to court in the form of a legal document by the Monetary Board of the Central Bank.


"We should be absolutely satisfied that the undertaking to settle depositors will be honored to the letter", he noted. "This should be done within a legal framework".


Chief Justice K. Sripavan observed that the formula should be acceptable to depositors and it should be assured that no injustice is caused to them.


The case will be taken up for hearing again on June 4, 2015.


"We welcome the Minister’s move to grant redress and are positive he will not go back on his pledge", Hapugoda noted.


"After I came out of the SC after Monday’s hearing, I was harassed by two women who shouted that I should withdraw the FR action", she asserted. "As they were not identified as depositors, I believe they had been ‘planted’ by somebody with vested interests to intimidate me".


She lodged a complaint with the Keselwatte police on the incident.


Karunanayake’s intervention has been largely welcomed by depositors though there is apprehension in some quarters whether Kotelawala will cooperate by voluntarily offering his assets for liquidation to repay the financial liability towards investors.


"With a motion filed to repossess his properties, there is more doubt whether he will give anything at all on his own volition", depositors pointed out.


Hapugoda said that a government television channel accused her of "embezzling funds" when people who had actually done that are now trying to wash their hands off and find scapegoats to pay for their sins.


Over the 2010-2014 period, GK repaid Rs. 2.59 billion to depositors under four staggered phases of Rs. 100,000 each.


Rs. 800.417 million was reimbursed to 8,143 depositors and Rs. 686.245 million to 7,060 depositors under the former Lakshman R. Watawala Committee and Rs. 562.455 million to 6,894 investors, and Rs. 10.575 million to 465 depositors with holdings below Rs. 1 million each were repaid under the newly constituted GK board of directors.


In terms of the 41% repayment formula, another Rs. 21 million is required to exit the 465 investors with deposits under Rs. 1 million by clearing the final settlement of Rs. 72,000 each.


"We have sufficient funds in the kitty to honor this commitment, but needs the green light from the Supreme Court to go ahead", Hapugoda said. "The cheques can be drawn within a day".


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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