PTL CEO instructed to delete calls, crash PC: Chief Dealer

In a shocking new revelation Perpetual Treasuries Chief Dealer Nuwan Salgado testifying at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) today said that based on the instructions of CEO kasun Palisena he had on July 6 asked the IT executive to delete more than 100 phone conversations and crash the operating system of the original computer having the voice logger system.

IT executive Sachith Devatantri in his evidence said he was asked to delete certain phone recordings by Chief Dealer Nuwan Salgado on July 5, 2017, the day before PTL was suspended by Central Bank as a primary dealer.

He said on the instructions of Mr. Salgado, he had also deleted certain conversations that had taken place on March 29 and 30, 2016, which were the days the two controversial bond auctions had taken place.

The witness said initially he was asked to provide all phone conversations relating to those two days by Mr. Palisena on a legal request by the CID to do so and thereby he provided all unedited conversations in two CDs.

However, Mr. Salgado had approached him with those two CDs and asked to delete certain phone calls that it contained and re-produce the CDs. Thereafter, he had deleted several calls from the two CDs and returned it to Mr. Salgado in the presence of Mr. Palisena.

However, after the second deletion of several call recordings from the main computer data base of the system on July 5, 2016, the witness had proposed to Mr. Salgado that the main computer should be replaced thereafter because the deleted details can be retrieved through a forensic examination from the computer hard drive.

The witness yesterday admitted to having watched several ‘You Tube’ videos on how to destroy the Operating System (OS) of a computer and crashed the computer OS on July 6, 2017, the day after the second deletion.

When the main computer with the voice recording system was restarted it had not uploaded its OS and the voice recording system was also dysfunctional.

However, the witness had earlier said he did not know what happened to the main computer, but yesterday admitted that he had crashed it after the deletion.

Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda who led the evidence, in a sarcastic manner told the Commission in Sinhala: “You Tube ekenuth Hena Gahanna puluwan kiyala dan therenawa” (We are now aware that lightning can strike even via the You Tube).

Mr. Devathantri explained that thereafter he had installed the system on another new computer and configured the system on July 21. He said he had replaced the edited voice recordings to the new system as well. Even though he had configured it in the new computer, to run the system with all facilities such as CLI, the system had to be configured in an advanced manner by service provider Metropolitan Ltd.

However this was the computer and the system that Mr. Palisena had looked at in August after the request was made by the Commission.

The witness said after the re-installation on July 6, 2017 he had conveyed what had happened to Mr. Salgado saying “wade hari” (work done) in the presence of Mr. Palisena.

Mr. Devathantri admitted that he was fully aware about the investigation going on against PTL at the time he had deleted the conversations based on Mr. Salgado's instructions.

ASG Kodagoda: You earlier said that you were unaware about the computer crash?

Witness: Yes

Justice Chitrasiri: Why did you say so?

W: I knew it was a wrong and that I should apologize for it.

President’s Counsel Kalinga Indatissa thereafter cross-examining the witness drew the Commission’s attention to the fact that his client Palisena had not instructed the IT person to do such deletions or crash the computer but it was Mr. Salgado who had done so.

After the conclusion of the cross examination, Justice Prasanna Jayawardena questioned the witness briskly.

Justice Jayawardena: So, before crashing the computer, the system contained the CLI facility, call details and voice recordings in it till July 4, 2017?

Witness: Yes

J: Then you deleted several voice recordings on July 5 and crashed the computer on July 6?

W: Yes

J: Who can access the server room apart from you?

W: Apart from me there was a key to the Server room kept in the company safe.

At this point, ASG Kodagoda asked the witness about two names and the witness was unaware of them. The ASG said those names were in the witness' initial affidavit and those are the names of those who attested the affidavit that the witness now failed to identify.

On an earlier occasion Mr. Indatissa PC appearing for Mr. Palisena raised a similar argument when Metropolitan Chief Engineer was testifying, which led to a heated argument between ASG Dappula de Livera and Mr. Indatissa.

Adding some amusement into the proceedings, ASG Kodagoda said, “It was sweet revenge and reciprocal treatment for Mr. Indatissa's earlier argument.”

When questioned by Mr. Indatissa PC, the witness affirmed that he was not asked by any counsel to give false information in his initial affidavit.

After a short adjournment, the Commission then called PTL Chief Dealer Nuwan Salgado.

It was explained that Mr. Salgado had recorded statements with the CID last weekend regarding the matter and had submitted his evidence in an affidavit to the Commission.

It was based on that affidavit Mr. Salgado testified before the Commission.

He said he joined PTL in 2013 with little prior experience in the field and thereafter in February 2015 he was promoted to the post of chief dealer.

This had happened because PTL's then CEO Arjun Aloysius had resigned from his position after his father-in-law Arjun Mahendran was appointed Central Bank Governor.

After Mr. Aloysius stepped down from his post, the then chief dealer Kasun Palisena was promoted CEO and subsequently Mr. Salgado succeeded as chief dealer in February 2015, before the controversial auction.

Justice Jayawardena: Before you were appointed as chief dealer were you an ordinary dealer?

Witness: Yes

J: And you are aware that prior to February 2015, Kasun Palisena (then chief dealer) and Arjun Aloysius (then CEO) were dealing in the business?

W: Yes

J: So, after you became chief dealer did that same pattern of decision making by Aloysius and Palisena continue?

W: Arjun Aloysius would have checked on the business

J: Aloysius’ father was not involved in the security trading, Arjun was the one who has the expertise in this field, so he would have frequently checked on the business?

W: Yes

J: So, he would discuss about dealing matters daily with Palisena, because a day’s transactions could make a huge differences in this field, right?

W: Yes, as the owner he would have checked them daily.

J: Therefore Aloysius would have been aware of any big decision taken by Palisena, right?

W: Yes

After a series of questions by Justice Jayawardena and ASG Kodagoda the witness said that apart from general trading matters Mr. Palisena would have informed Arjun Aloysius before making any significant decision.

Justice Jayawardena: If Palisena wanted to bid more than the offered value in an auction such as to place a bid of Rs.15 billion, then he would have to inform Aloysius, right?

W: Yes

J: He cannot do it alone. Then that decision should necessarily would have come after consulting Arjun Aloysius, right?

W: Yes

When questioned over the phone recording system by ASG Kodagoda, it was revealed that the witness had received instructions from Mr. Palisena to listen to all phone recordings by November 2016. It was revealed that the instructions were received to identify any phone conversations which are harmful to PTL.

This instruction was received after the regulatory measure that had been taken by the CBSL in November restricting PTL’s primary dealer business.

Thereafter, Mr. Salgado had been listening to the phone recordings periodically and had identified a number of recordings which could be harmful to PTL.

The witness admitted that he asked IT executive Devathantri to delete some call recordings in April 2016 relating to the phone conversations on March 29 and 30, 2016 on the instructions of Kasun Palisena.

He also said that he again informed the IT executive to delete several phone recordings on July 5, 2017 on the instructions of Kasun Palisena.

Mr. Salgado was of the view that he and Palisena were also aware of the re-installation of the system, the destruction made to the OS of the main computer and the replacement of the main computer relating to the system.

The witness revealed that more than 100 voice recordings were deleted in which Palisena, Gajan (dealer), Kaushitha (dealer) and he had been involved.

At this point, the Commission asked Mr. Gajan to leave the court room. Mr. Gajan was the person who had been consulting the PTL's lawyers throughout the proceedings.

However, when questioned, the witness said he cannot recall the exact outside entity involved in those deleted conversations as there were many.

Consequently, the commission repeatedly questioned him as to who were the entities found as outsiders (apart from the PTL end) in those deleted phone conversations

Justice Jayawardena: You cannot not know about the outside parties who were involved in these conversations because you had identified them, and we cannot believe that you now have forgotten them. Therefore, you should know who the outsiders were.

W: I cannot place an exact entity, it was some phone conversations that I looked into as harmful to the PTL, and some were even between Aloysius and Palisena as well.

Then Justice Jayawardena went on to question the witness as to what were the matters he regarded as harmful when listening to the recordings.

When questioned by Justice Jayawardena, the witness admitted that he had identified as harmful conversations that gave any impression that the PTL had pushed the market and impacted market yield rates.

However, the witness was then repeatedly questioned as to why he cannot reveal about the outside party of one single conversation that he had instructed to delete.

Justice Chithrasiri: Your position of not remembering other sides cannot be accepted. What made you think of identifying those deleted calls as bad against PTL?

W: I can’t recall them, now I have given all original data to the Commission so thereby (the commission) can identify them if needed.

Justice Jayawardena: If frankly saying, it is not acceptable to believe that you cannot remember at least one outside party. So, if there were calls relating to PTL pushing rates, you would have deleted them, right?

W: Yes

J: If there were calls relating to receiving inside information, you would have also deleted those phone recordings right?

Witness was silent

J: I am giving every opportunity to you now.

W: Yes I would have deleted them.

J: So, those deleted calls fall to one of the above categories, right?

W: Yes

The witness was also questioned whether he had deleted specifically the phone conversations relating to PTL and EPF. The witness said he cannot remember them.

The Commission and ASG Kodagoda also questioned him whether he had concluded deals with Saman Kumara the former EPF dealer. He said he never concluded deals with him.

Justice Jayawardena questioning the witness observed that PTL had considerably gained their capability of trading (leverage) in Government Securities from the February 27, 2015 auction, by aqcuiring long-term bonds and subsequently in November 2015 they had sold them to the EPF.

The witness was of the view that he only dealt with Udayaseelan (dealer of EPF at that time) and cannot take responsibility over the transactions that happened in November with EPF because the majority of them were conducted by Kasun Palisena and Saman Kumara.

However, after giving some shocking revelations against PTL, ASG Yasantha Kodagoda explained the witness about the Victim Protection Act and his rights and other means of protection from any harassment or any diverse actions against his employment by the employer. The ASG also instructed him that he was entitled to inform any such conduct extended against him to the CID or Police because such actions are regarded as non-bailable offences.

The Witness also apologized the Commission for providing fabricated evidence. Mr. Salgado said he had not received any additional reward for committing such actfrom PTL but only involved in such deletion of voice recordings on the instruction of Kasun Palisena. And he also said that he testified independently without being suppressed by anyone.

Mr. Salgado had also submitted four CDs of the original back-up data which was taken by Devathantri prior to the alteration made to the recording system on July 5, 2017.

These CDs will now have the missing conversations relating to secondary market transactions between PTL and EPF. (Shehan Chamika Silva)

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