Misappropriation of Rs 195 mn: Fort Magistrate clears way for continuation of CID probe

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Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage has turned down a request made by Ajith Pathirana PC to suspend a CID investigation into a case involving approximately Rs 195 million that had been allegedly defrauded from a group of shareholders following the sale of a plot of land at Kollupitiya, majority shareholder being a UK-based limited liability company. Pathirana appeared for UK citizen Kathirvelpillai Satkunam, the chief suspect in the case.

Counsel appearing for the aggrieved party, Access Direct (UK) Ltd, Nalinda Indatissa PC pointed out that an order to suspend the on-going CID investigation before its completion is illegal, and therefore, the Defence Counsel is requesting an illegal order from the court.

The hearing was held in open court with primary suspect Kathirvelpillai Satkunam physically present in the dock.

The CID’s Commercial Crime Investigation Division has been investigating the complaint about purchasing 219.5 perches of land on Galle Road, Kollupitiya, in 2004. Ten shareholders of a UK-based company, Access Direct UK Ltd, had invested 1.3 million sterling pounds in purchasing the land through a wholly-owned registered subsidiary company in Sri Lanka, Access Direct Colombo Ltd. This land had then been sold in July 2010.

The CID’s investigation uncovered that the land was sold for Rs 790 million. It has been established that only Rs 595,507,721 of the money received from the sale of the land was sent to Access Direct UK Ltd. The CID told the court that the remaining Rs 194,800,279 had been obtained fraudulently, and the amount had been misused in a criminal breach of trust.

Court papers reveal that the CID had recorded a statement from another fellow shareholder of Access Direct UK Ltd, Mr Shanmugasunderam Surendran known as Shawn Surendran. At present he works for Riverstone Corporation Ltd, SPC House, Restmor way, Wallington, Surrey, United Kingdom. His statement was recorded at Bogala Court, Colombo 5. He invested hundred thousand pounds initially at Access Direct UK Ltd and then a further thirty seven thousand pounds. He reported on February 23, 2011 to the rest of shareholders on behalf of the primary suspect Mr Satkunam that the land was disinvested for Rs 658m. He told the CID that he got the figure from Mr Ron Smith of Wilkins Kennedy a firm of accountants in the UK. He also told the CID that he wasn’t aware that the land was actually sold for Rs 790m.

In November 2022, a travel ban was placed on primary suspect Kathirvelpillai Satkunam. When Mr Satkunam tried to re-enter Sri Lanka on February 27 this year, he was arrested by the officers of the Katunayake Unit of the CID and produced before the Fort Magistrate’s Court on February 28 after recording a statement.

The CID requested the Magistrate to remand the suspect for further investigations until March 14. However, he was granted bail on the condition of two sureties of Rs 5 million each. On March 08, the travel ban was lifted temporarily, until the next court appearance on May 17, 2023 on condition that two sureties value of Rs 10m and property bail worth Rs 10m to be placed in addition to the existing two sureties, each value of Rs 5m, in total of Rs 30m.

On May 17, the court yet again temporarily lifted the travel ban imposed on the suspect until the next court date, September 13, 2023 with the same sureties being in place. The investigation continues.

Ajith Pathirana PC, J.L.B.M. Karunananda and R.A. Himasha Fernando appeared for the suspect. Nalinda Indatissa PC and Dinesh Dodangoda represented the aggrieved party.

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