Rs. 1 billion worth jewellery and gold to be returned to owners soonView(s):
By S. Rubatheesan
The Defence Ministry has decided to fast-track the process of returning almost Rs one billion worth of gold and other valuable ornaments seized by the military from the custody of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and found in abandoned houses during the final phases of the conflict, a senior official said. āThe committee which was appointed to look into this forwarded its recommendations to the President recently. A high level meeting with all stakeholders has been fixed for next week to determine the next steps to be taken in this regard,ā Additional Defence Secretary R.M.S Sarath Kumara told the Sunday Times.
In a response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by the Sunday Times, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) disclosed that it had 37.7 kilograms (37,708.472 grams) of gold in its custody. This had been received from the Army. The Central Bank said it accepted from the Army parcels said to contain gold jewellery on 28 occasions during the period between September 7, 2010 and January 26, 2012. The street value of the items totals Rs one billion.
āAll the items have been weighed and valued by the National Gem and Jewellery Authority before they were given to the CBSL. On each occasion, the CBSL had weighed each packet of jewellery in the presence of Army personnel and internal auditors of the CBSL and issued a letter to the Army as a proof of receipt of these parcels said to contain gold,ā the Central Bank said in its RTI response.
The CBSL also acknowledged that last year, the Army handed over another parcel said to contain gold items weighing 6003.132 grams and those items had not been weighed or valued by the National Gem and Jewellery Authority before handing them over to the CBSL. āThese parcels had not been checked by the CBSL prior to accepting them. These parcels said to contain gold still remain in CBSL custody,ā
Additional Secretary Kumara said the military still had a significant amount of gold and valuable ornaments in its custody.
Meanwhile, the Peoplesā Bank has informed the Defence Ministry that some of the jewellery belongs to the bank. In 2014, the previous government claimed it took steps to return the gold and other valuables to the owners after careful study of their legitimate ownership. The Government identified 2,377 people from the North as rightful owners of the gold jewellery which they pawned to LTTE-run banks during the conflict period. Among them only 25 people were given back their jewellery at a ceremony held at Temple Trees. There has been no further action taken to return the gold to those who claim to be the rightful owners.
Residents who lived inLTTE-held areas for decades claim they have documents to prove their legitimate ownership of their jewellery pawned at the āTamilleela Vaippakamā or āBank of Tamileelamā.