SLC in an attempt to salvage cash from Mexican account

Sri Lanka Cricket  (SLC) this week enlisted Ernest & Young to carry out a comprehensive audit on its broadcast earnings amidst new findings that a separate sum of USD 187,000 (Rs 32mn) was transferred to an offshore account before the alleged USD 5.5mn dollar fraud attempt.

This could have been a trial run by the perpetrator(s) who later allegedly attempted to transfer a  big chunk of the broadcast money for the current England-Sri Lanka series to the same account, insiders said.

Last month, SLC thwarted an attempt by one of its employees to allegedly embezzle USD 5.5mn by having it transferred to an offshore bank account. The USD 187,000 transferred earlier had been due to the Board from Sony Pictures Network India (Pvt) Ltd as the last payment for the  broadcasting rights of the recently-concluded South African series. The USD 3.5mn was the payment for the ongoing England series.

SLC confirmed that the smaller amount was deposited in an offshore account in Hong Kong, then further transferred to an account in Mexico (Banamex Bank A/C 002180700779057641).

SLC’s Head of Finance is now under investigation for giving instructions to Sony Pictures Network to transfer US$ 5.56 million to the Hong Kong account an off-shore account allegedly using forged documents and signatures. This was the first tranche of US$ 11.128 million due to SLC from the broadcaster for the current England series.

“We are in the process of recovering that money,” said Ashley de Siva, SLC CEO. “After the main incident, we did an internal investigation and found that the last payment from Sony has not come. We have referred this as well to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).”

De Silva on Thursday made a statement to the CID along with Manager IT, Nadeeshan Suriaarachchi. “I have asked the IGP to complete the investigation expeditiously,” said Minister of Sports Faizser Musthapha.

Both these transaction, however, had taken place during the current interim administration with the board being headed by a politically appointed Competent Authority (CA).

“If there was a proper management committee, elected or otherwise, this would never have taken place,” a cricket source said on the condition of anonymity. “Cricket is in a mess on and off the field. The team is under-performing, on the one hand. On the other, there has been massive fraud attempt and, also, match-fixing allegations.”

“I am sure all these would have avoided if there was a proper administration in place at the SLC,” he maintained. “I think the Minister should take the responsibility. He should go for an election as soon as possible or appoint an interim committee to manage the affairs which his Secretary [the CA] is incapable of handling.”

The SLC’s Head of Finance (HoF) has given instruction to its broadcast partner to make the payment to Hangseng Bank in Hong Kong (A/C No. 788-7968954-883) which would then be automatically credited to an account with Banamex Bank (Banamex Bank A/C 002180700779057641).

The letter was signed by the HoF along with the CEO and Chief Operating Officer (COO) but both CEO and COO say that they did not sign the letter and that their signatures had been forged. The HoF, who has since been suspended, has insisted he is innocent, claiming his email was hacked. This was rejected by the SLC IT Manager at a recent press conference in Colombo.

The trail of email communication between the HoF and Sandeep Patil of Sony Pictures shows the former giving clear instructions to the latter to transfer the money at their earliest to an account owned by Fanya Silu Co. Limited in Hong Kong. The Sunday Times searched the directory of the Cyber Search Center of the Company Register in Hong Kong and found that a Spanish national named Tamara Sanchez Baurdet is a director of the company but no further details were available with regard to other directors of the company, if any.

This is the first fraud of this nature in the history of SLC.

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