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Lanka’s most wanted held

world Updated: Aug 07, 2010 00:09 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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One of Sri Lanka’s most wanted fugitives accused of swindling nearly a billion rupees was arrested by the police on Friday.

Sakvithi Ranasinghe was accused in 2008 of carrying out possibly the biggest financial scam in this country in recent times after defrauding thousands of their savings. His victims included policemen and prominent society figures.

By the time, his plush house was raided in September 2008, Sakvithi had escaped, possibly slipped out of the country. But police recently received reliable information that he had returned.

When he was finally arrested, it was found that Sakvithi had altered his appearance and was using a Tamil name. More than 1.5 lakh in cash was recovered from him.

Initial investigations revealed that Sakvithi had fled to India after the fraud was detected. He returned about two months ago.

Sri Lanka had also sought Interpol assistance to arrest the man in connection with what might have been the largest single cash fraud in the country.

At the centre of this rip-off, reported in the media as the `Sakvithi scam', was Sakvithi, a man in his late 30s. Sakvithi looked every inch the businessman he claimed to be. He was also the ever-smiling and popular teacher of English, hosted a weekly television show on a government channel and ran investment and construction companies. Sakvithi sir, to his students, promised the world to his clients.

Late September in 2008 the facades peeled off and thousands of unfortunate investors discovered, and as pointed out by the Central Bank and police, who Sakvithi allegedly was, a swindler. Reports said that thousands had invested money in a scheme floated by him, in which a much-higher interest rate compared to banks was offered. In some cases, he even offered an astonishing 72 per cent interest rate.