Massive fraud in Italian Mission
Nearly 94,000 Euros have been embezzled by an attache to Sri Lanka
`s Embassy in Italy allegedly with the connivance of the Head of Chancery of the Mission.
The discovery was made by Foreign Ministry senior accountants who were dispatched to Rome at the request of Sri Lanka`s Ambassador to Italy Hemantha Warnakulasuriya.
Although the Attache had been interdicted, no action has been taken against the Head of Chancery so far.
The financial control and discipline of an Embassy is under the Head of Chancery while the attache is virtually in charge of finances and assists the Head of Chancery in the day to day adminstration of the Mission.
The discovery was made in the wake of many anonymous calls from the Sri Lankan diaspora in Italy to Ambassador Warnakulasuriya. However when the Ambassador in August 2009 decided to carry out a sudden check on the cash book, Bank statements and cash in hand showed a marked discrepancy.
On questioning the Attache, Ambassador Warnakulasuriya was told that the Books never balanced and when he took over from his predecessor the books did not reconcile and before that the books had been maintained in an Exercise Book. According to the Ambassador when he asked the Attache whether he informed the Head of Chancery who was at that time acting for the Ambassador, he answered in the affirmative. However when it was pointed out that he should have made those remarks in the Cash book in Red, on the day that he took over, and he was requested to submit the note he had tendered to the Head of Chancery, the document was not forthcoming.
Thereafter, the Ambassador in October 2009 wrote to the then Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama
and the then Secretary Palitha Kohona
, requesting an immediate investigations and recalling of the officer to Colombo.
When the present Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe took over, the Ambassador wrote to him requesting an immediate probe. Thereafter, in November 2009 two of the most senior officers of the accounts branch, the chief accountant and the Head of Mission Accounts came to Rome and initially found 48,000 Euros had not been banked though the Ambassador insisted that his information was that nearly 100,000 Euros had been defrauded by this officer.
Later, it was confirmed that nearly 94,000 Euros had not been banked but misappropriated.
The misappropriation had taken place from the early part of 2007 and if the Mission accounts had been maintained in an exercise book, what happened before is anybody`s guess.