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Ex Chamber chief seeks SLBA explanation for secrecy breach

13 December 2012 03:19 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The efficacy of Sri Lanka’s banking secrecy laws has been called into question by former Chairperson of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and good governance activist Chandra Jayaratne, in the wake of a purported leaking of the confidential bank account details of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake to Members of  Parliament.

In an open letter to the Sri Lanka Banks Association (Guarantee) Ltd, Jayaratne raised concerns over the state of banking secrecy laws and appealed to the Association to furnish the public with an explanation as to how such information was made available to Parliament, in violation of confidentiality agreements, without the prior knowledge and authorization of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.

“Your members, clients, shareholders and stakeholders have now witnessed the flagrant violation of another property right, the right to the secrecy of banking details with licensed banks in Sri Lanka.”

“It is reported that in this instance, the personal bank account details of t he Chief Justice of Sri Lanka has purportedly been made available by a member or members of your Association directly or indirectly to third parties (in this instance purportedly to 117 members of Parliament who were thus able to originally sign the impeachment motion and handed over to the Speaker, based on details of the banking accounts of the customer of the said licensed commercial bank or banks operating in Sri Lanka).”

“If the above presumption is correct, then this purported release of banking information normally subject to secrecy commitments is a flagrant violation of the rights of the concerned client of the bank or banks. It further violates the strictly upheld principles of banking secrecy and best practices of banking governance,” Jayaratne asserted.

In that light, he appealed to the SLBA to ascertain whether personal account details were in fact leaked by members of the Association without the consent of Justice Bandaranayake.

Jayaratne also requested further clarification as to which parties had made the request for information and on what legal basis and under which authority the said information was released.

He also questioned the Association as to whether Justice Bandaranayake has since been formally made aware of the purported violation of her confidentiality agreement and what corrective measures were being taken by the SLBA to ensure that breaches of confidentiality would be prevented in future.

“I trust that you will uphold the interests of the Private Sector, Investors both local and foreign, Correspondent Banks and the country as a whole, by placing the future sustainable interests of t he nation and the people of Sri Lanka as one of your Association’s core commitment,” Jayaratne concluded.

The ineffectiveness of Sri Lanka’s banking secrecy laws were recently highlighted by Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne, who at a recent media briefing, stated that confidential bank account information was easily obtainable.

In response to a query as to how Parliament came to acquire confidential infor mation, in violation of the contractual rights of Justice Bandaranayake, Senaratne said:

“I obtained credit card details of Mangala Samaraweera when I was merely an opposition member of parliament. So do you think the 117 government MPs who signed the impeachment cannot get (secret) banking details?”

Amongst the charges leveled against Justice Bandaranayake were allegations that she had failed to disclose assets and liabilities in the form of more than 20 bank accounts including accounts with NDB’s Colombo 7 branch.

A specially appointed Parliamentary Select Committee has since found Justice Bandaranayake guilty on three out of five charges of financial and professional misconduct, including the failure to disclose nine bank accounts.

Justice Bandaranayake denying all wrong-doing has stated that: “there is not one iota of truth to the charges.”
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