Why did a Singapore-based company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) collect millions of Euros and hundreds of thousands of dollars between August and October 2012 from three foreign entities and how did these payments get channeled into Sri Lanka? Who did they go to? These questions were raised anew this week in Sri [...]


The sordid story of Krrish case; Hambantota Hospital, Airbus deals and a ghost Italian


Why did a Singapore-based company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) collect millions of Euros and hundreds of thousands of dollars between August and October 2012 from three foreign entities and how did these payments get channeled into Sri Lanka? Who did they go to?

These questions were raised anew this week in Sri Lanka with the airing of a show by ‘Four Corners’–Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s leading investigative journalism programme–that explored, among other things, why Aspen Medical Pty Ltd, an Australian company, figured among those who had paid money into this offshore account owned by businessman Nimal Perera.

The account was also later linked to an investigation into the infamous “Airbus bribes”.

Nimal Perera being interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist for the channel's "Four-Corners' investigation programme

The Krrish case

The story starts with the launch of what is called ‘the Krrish case’. On a complaint by the JVP’s Wasantha Samarasinghe, the convener of the Voice against Corruption, the then Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) of the Police Department looked into whether fraud had occurred in the lease of 43 acres at Colombo Fort to Krrish Transworks Colombo (Pvt) Ltd.

But as the probe continued, it brought into the open hefty payments made into a Singapore-based BVI company named Sabre Vision Holdings Ltd (SVHL) owned by Mr Perera. They were ostensibly fees for “services” to a Dutch company named EN-Projects which had won a turnkey contract from Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health to build hospitals in Hambantota and Nuwara Eliya.

Mr Perera is distancing himself from SVHL. He tweeted this week that SVHL was a “subsidiary of a diversified business entity found in 1918 in Sri Lanka & not owned by me, though I was named a beneficiary when the company I was employed [sic] acquired the company in question & appointed me as the Managing Director”.

He avoided naming the company he was employed at but subsequently quote-tweeted a thread by another Twitter user, saying, “I recommend this thread, if you’re interested”. In it, the company was revealed to be Delmege.

“I had a quick chat with @nimalhperera yesterday and was told that the BVI payments were for a project conducted under Delmege, signed by Delmege before taking over,” one of the tweets in the thread said. “He was just the beneficiary as the MD [Managing Director] on the account. A normal practice I have seen.”

Delmege Chairman Dhammika Perera: Says his company has nothing to do with the Singapore-based SVHL, a company which transferred funds to Nimal Perera's local accounts in Sri Lanka

Dhammika Perera denies

However, Delmege Ltd Chairman Dhammika Perera this week categorically denied to the Sunday Times that SVHL was ever part of the company’s portfolio when he bought Delmege in June 2011. “It was a private company held by a private individual,” he said via telephone. “It was not part of the valuation of Delmege when we bought Delmege. How can something that is not owned by Delmege Forsyth & Co Ltd be part of the valuation?”

“Sabre Vision never belonged to Delmege,” he reiterated. “If Sabre Vision belonged to Delmege, the payments should’ve come to Delmege. Delmege never received any monies or profits or income from the hospitals project. You can say that.”

Multiple employees and directors of the Delmege Group have confirmed this. The annual statements of accounts of its companies do not reflect payments–either made or due–from EN-Projects or any other entity connected with the Hambantota-Nuwara Eliya hospitals project. Copies of bank transactions clearly show the monies from SVHL reached Mr Nimal Perera’s personal accounts at HSBC and Sampath Bank.

Facts presented to the Colombo Fort Magistrate Court, which are now part of the public case record, also show that Mr Perera paid out Rs 188mn from his HSBC and Sampath Bank accounts–both of which received funds from SVHL–in October and December 2012 to purchase a property at No. 7, Gower Street, Colombo 5. In July 2017, he sold it for Rs 325mn to businessman Nandana Lokuwithana, owner of Ceylon Steel Corporation, the Horana Tyre factory and the new cement plant in Hambantota.

Sabre Vision Holdings Ltd

The Colombo Fort Magistrate Court first heard in 2016 that the personal HSBC and Sampath Bank accounts of Mr Perera—who was the President of Ceylon Premier Sports—received a total of Rs 70mn between October and December 2012 from Krrish, reportedly to be spent on the Super Sevens Rugby Tournament in 2013 and sports development. That’s where the investigation kicked off. Copies of all these financial transactions as well as other documents are contained in official files.

Mr Perera told police he had accepted the funds on the request of Namal Rajapaksa, son of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the then President. Between May 2013 and June 2014 he gave the money to Namal in two cash payments of Rs 35mn each at Namal’s Gowers Corporate Services (Pvt) Ltd office at 7, Gower Street, Colombo 5, he said.

Namal separately gave a statement to the FCID that he handed over the Rs 70mn to a “finance committee” in charge of the Super Sevens Rugby Tournament. However, FCID interviews with committee members yielded no evidence to this effect; nor were there any records of the money having been spent on the event.

On a Magisterial order dated July 2017, a team led by FCID Director Dhammika Priyantha obtained and analysed the transaction details of Mr Perera’s personal HSBC and Sampath Bank accounts.

They zeroed in on a payment of Rs 48,750,000 made to Mr Perera’s rupee HSBC account on March 20, 2013. The FCID traced that this payment, an equivalent of 300,000 euros, was first received into his euro HSBC account from the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) account of a company named Sabre Vision Holdings Ltd (SVHL) with an address of 6 Eu Tong Sen Street 1103, Singapore 059817.

On December 4, 2012, Mr Perera’s Sampath Bank account also received the equivalent of 350,000 euros (Rs. 58,466,925.00) from the SCB account of SVHL.

The mysterious Italian

Mr Perera in a statement to FCID said these euro transfers were from an Italian he met on business travel to Italy. He named him “Anke Ballisteri” (phonetic spelling). He said Mr Ballisteri transmitted him the monies to him to invest in the Colombo Stock Exchange; and that he, Mr Perera, accordingly bought stocks in various companies with Mr Ballisteri’s funds in combination, not separately, with his own monies.

The arrangement, which he said was based on trust, was for the payment of an annual commission of five percent. But Mr Perera said that, at the time his statement was recorded, he had returned neither the capital nor interest to Mr Ballisteri.

He maintained he did not know the Italian’s postal or email address; and could not say where or when he met him during his trip to Italy—even after the FCID showed him records of his foreign travel obtained from the Department of Immigration and Emigration. A Mr Ballisteri was never traced.

Mr Perera claimed that since the monies in his accounts were from Mr Ballisteri, SVHL could be connected with the Italian. In additional statements, Mr Perera reiterated to the FCID that the 300,000 euros to his personal HSBC account and the 350,000 euros into his personal Sampath Bank account were from Mr Ballisteri. He repeated that he had no documents or other details to prove the Italian’s address or identity. Neither did he have a phone number for him and was unlikely to find contact information in future.

Following the airing of the ‘Four Corners’ programme, Mr Perera tweeted a contradictory version of this transaction. He said: “The Italian businessman mentioned in the article was introduced to me when I was looking to furnish my house. He owned an interior design company in Italy & and provided his services to many who could afford him. He died unexpectedly from an illness he thought was under control.”

The Sunday Times did not receive a response from Mr Perera to a written question seeking a clarification regarding this discrepancy.

Sabre Vision owner found

On May 22, 2018, the FCID obtained information through a mutual legal assistance (MLA) request to Singapore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act No. 5 of 2006. It showed the authorised signatory of the SCB account held by SVHL to be Wannakawattawaduge Don Nimal Hemasiri Perera–and not an Italian.

An MLA request to the BVI, where SVHL was registered, showed the beneficial owner of SVHL was the same Wannakawattawaduge Don Nimal Hemasiri Perera. SVHL was originally opened in Singapore by the former Group CEO of Delmege Forsyth & Co Ltd, it divulged.

Records obtained via the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka then revealed several payments made to SVHL’s accounts between August 21, 2012 and October 31, 2012. One remittance was from the Germany-based Deutsche Bank Privat–Und Geschaeftskunden Ag account of the German company, Juga Bau GmbH.

Another was from the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) bank account in Australia of Aspen Medical Pty Limited, the Australian company. A third was from the Rabo Bank Nederland account in Netherlands owned by the Dutch company Enraf-Nonius (EN-Projects).

Remitted within 42 days, the payments totaled 4,330,785.02 euros and USD 536,909.80. These transaction documents are available in files that also contain other papers related to this case and were purportedly for “consultation”.

The Hambantota hospital: At the centre of a controversial contract

The hospitals project

The FCID traced that Juga Bau GmbH had received the monies into its own account from the Dutch company EN-Projects.

EN-Projects was contracted to build hospitals in Hambantota (worth nearly 49mn euros) and Nuwara Eliya (worth nearly 40mn euros). The government undertook to meet 15 percent of the total cost with a loan from People’s Bank (PB). The remainder was to be through a financing agreement with Rabobank, the Netherlands.

The relevant agreement was signed between EN-Projects and the Ministry of Health in June 2011. The PB loan was taken in July 2, 2012, and the Treasury released advance payments to EN-Projects. The foreign remittances into SVHL started the next month and continued till October that year.

The FCID filed an MLA to Singapore to determine the reason for these payments into SVHL. They replied with a copy of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between SVHL and EN-Projects on October 25, 2013.

While there are questions regarding this agreement which we will not address here, the MoU revealed that the local agent for EN-Projects was Delmege Forsyth & Co Ltd (which an earlier MLA reply said had originally set up SVHL and opened its accounts).

Delmege sale

The story, as evidenced by documents, records and interviews, was this: In June 2011, Delmege Forsyth & Co group was sold by its owner F.G.N. Mendis for Rs 3.1bn. Vallibel One (VO) bought 51 percent of the shares. Another 10 percent was bought by VO Chairman Dhammika Perera; and Nimal Perera also acquired 10 percent and became its Managing Director (MD).

The former CEO of Delmege had set up SVHL in Singapore in 2010 and opened its accounts under his personal name. No business or financial transactions took place through it. After the sale, according to documents and court records, the CEO travelled to Singapore with Nimal Perera, the new MD, and made him the joint signatory and beneficial owner of SVHL. On Mr Perera’s instructions, he handed over full control–including beneficial ownership of SVHL–weeks later.

When Delmege was sold, its subsidiary LB Management (Pvt) Ltd had already signed a ‘Service and Maintenance of Medical Equipment/Goods and Ancillary Equipment’ agreement with EN-Projects for the Hambantota-Nuwara Eliya hospitals project. Delmege was, in effect, the local agent and was to receive a commission. Preparatory work had been ongoing.

At that stage, there was no evidence in any agreement that the transactions or activities for this project would be done by Delmege and EN-Projects through a BVI-registered offshore company.

A new arrangement

Documentary evidence, case records and interviews prove that this agreement between Delmege and EN-Projects was abrogated. Delmege’s Head of Business Development, who had been handling it for the company, told the FCID that Mr Nimal Perera took over the hospitals project.

On his instructions, this officer sent a letter to the Director Projects of EN-Projects on March 16, 2012, saying Delmege was withdrawing from the service agreement. On March 19, 2012, he received a reply from EN-Projects acknowledging the same. These documents are available in official files.

The former Head of Legal of Delmege told FCID that she gathered all original paperwork related to the hospitals project in a file and handed it over to Nimal Perera at his Royal Ceramic office in R A De Mel Road around 2013-2014. He reportedly instructed an employee to lock them away in the company safe. They were not returned to the Legal Department of Delmege, where they had been kept thus far.

Under the terms of the agreement between MoH and EN-Projects–described in black-and-white–the local agent must be a reputable company with the required technical knowledge, finances and trained staff.

But when the Project Director of the Dutch company notified the MoH Secretary by letter that the agreement with Delmege Forsyth & Co. Ltd was terminated, he said a company named NP Capital (Pvt) Ltd will be the new local agent. Court records reveal its address to be No. 90, Horton Place, Colombo 07. It was registered on October 7, 2011. And its owner is Nimal Perera.

NP Capital’s main business activity is “managing and holding of investment portfolio”. After Delmege’s exit, it was listed as the local agent for EN-Projects in relation with the Hambantota-Nuwara Eliya hospitals venture.

Meanwhile, the project dragged on from 2012 till early this year–nearly a decade. In January, the MoH was still negotiating the delivery of equipment after having tackled numerous issues with design and construction. Emails to EN-Projects by the Sunday Times received no reply.

Airbus case

Records of a separate case before the Colombo Fort Magistrate pertaining to the Airbus bribes reveal that Mr Perera continued to be the sole beneficiary of SVH after ceasing to be MD of Delmege in January 2013. SVHL received two payments of US$ 400,000 each–a total of US$ 800,000–from Biz Solutions in November and December of that year.

Biz Solutions Inc was registered in Brunei by Priyanka Neomali Wijenayake, the wife of former SriLankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer Kapila Chandrasena. Case records from England’s High Court state that Airbus SE had hired Ms Wijenayake as a business partner through this “dummy company” and then paid into its account in SCB Singapore a sum of US$ 2mn out of a total US$ 16.84mn promised in return for ensuring that SriLankan bought aircraft from Airbus. The Chairman of SriLankan at the time was Nishantha Wickremesinghe.


Share This Post


The best way to say that you found the home of your dreams is by finding it on Hitad.lk. We have listings for apartments for sale or rent in Sri Lanka, no matter what locale you're looking for! Whether you live in Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Matara, Jaffna and more - we've got them all!

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.