Sakvithi scam: Panic spreads to other towns

By Asif Fuard

The multi-million-rupee Sakvithi finance company scandal has started causing ripple effects countrywide with panic-stricken depositors demanding the return of their monies from questionable finance companies, reports from the provinces said.

Depositors of six more companies, which were declared illegal by the Central Bank on Friday, rushed to the offices of these companies, demanding their deposits back. Some went to local police stations to lodge complaints.

It is learnt that some of these companies are operating under the cover of co-operative societies.
The rush to withdraw deposits from these companies came as the investigations in the "Sakvithi" scandal took a sensational turn yesterday when a senior Mirihana police officer was implicated in the huge fraud while street protests by duped investors continued.Nugegoda Police Superintendent Deshabandu Tennakoon said Inspector K. Pushpakumara, in charge of the communications unit, has been on leave since Monday after he was implicated in the headline-hitting fraud.

He said the inspector had been directed to come to station for questioning tomorrow. Depositors alleged that the inspector was a close associate of English-tutor-turned-investor, Sakvithi Ranasinghe who has gone missing after swindling an estimated 5,000 persons to the tune of more than Rs. 900 million. The victims yesterday claimed they had seen the police officer removing documents and computers from the Sakvithi institution at Nawala Road in Nugegoda on Monday.

An estimated 2,000 depositors and their family members yesterday demonstrated outside the Sakvithi office demanding the arrest of the police officer, the main suspect and other directors of the company.
After a one-hour noisy protest, the placard carrying protestors marched to an office of a Nugegoda lawyer who they claimed was the lawyer of the company. They protested outside the lawyer’s office also. Some employees of the lawyer were reportedly assaulted after heated arguments. So far six suspects, including a retired Army Major, have been arrested.

Deadline for six other companies

The Central Bank has given a month’s time for unregistered finance companies to register with the Bank.

“We have asked them to register with us within a month. If they don’t, we will take action. If their application doesn’t meet our criteria, we’ll ask them to return the deposits or face action,” Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal told The Sunday Times. He said new laws were being prepared to give additional powers to the Central Bank and police to prevent such finance company frauds.

It was just three days after the Central Bank raided six unregistered finance companies and warned the owners on Friday, September 19 that Sakvithi Ranasinghe, the English teacher-cum unregistered finance company owner, decamped with millions of rupees of hard-earned depositors’ money.

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