The Sunday Leader

‘Con-Seka’ Ponzi Scheme In London Targeted Sri Lankan Community

  • A 10 million pound scam

By Abdul H. Azeez

Vibhawa Fonseka was flashy, young and rich. Everyone liked him. He was from a ‘good family,’ was extremely charming and was easy to trust.
He used his influence and good name to start an investment scheme through which he, together with his family, encouraged friends and relatives to invest in.
His smooth talk and ostentatious show of wealth easily convinced people to fork out their hard earned cash. With a minimum investment of pounds sterling 15,000, Fonseka was soon minting money. He reportedly bought a mansion worth 1.6 million sterling pounds and hired flashy cars in order to convince his investors that they, like him, could make it big too. His strategy quickly attracted investors and when he was finally convicted on various charges of deception and money laundering, he had managed to scam a total of 10 million sterling pounds.
Another five men were convicted along with him. Southwark Crown Court was told the six men targeted Sri Lankan communities in London and promised large profits for joining the scheme. A Metropolitan Police inquiry began in 2005 after victims reported being duped out of huge sums of money.
Fonseka, now also known by the rather ingenious nickname of ‘con-seka’, exploited members of his own community and family. One close family friend, Ananda Kariyawasam spoke of how Vibhawa Fonseka had gained his trust and made him invest more than 45,000 pounds in his scheme. In a letter claimed to have been sent to The Sunday Observer, and later published in an online forum he said how he never received any documentation as proof of his investments but trusted Fonseka as he believed all his stories.
Fonseka had claimed to have had strong ties with the ‘Federal Reserve New York’ and even the UN.  Kariyawasam, relating how Fonseka reassured him about an investment decision said, “Once again he reassured me that there were no risk (sic) as he was working for Federal Reserve NY and United Nations.” He went on to say “Ananda Mama if Federal Reserve NY and United Nations go bankrupt, it will be the end of the whole financial world.”
That a medium time investor from London was working with the Federal Reserve and the UN itself seems somewhat far-fetched but a lot of investors believed the story. This betrays the innocence of the people he targeted; Fonseka would typically promise large returns for investors who would then usually invest a moderate sum of money. When the promised returns arrived, the investors started seeing green and adopted drastic measures such as mortgaging homes to invest as much money as possible with Fonseka. Once they had been sucked dry though, the returns disappeared.
Over one hundred victims were duped; one investor, after getting a monthly return of 5,000 pounds on an investment of just 40,000 sterling pounds, promptly re-mortgaged his home and invested an additional 50,000 pounds with Fonseka. He never saw his money again, all of it having gone into financing Fonseka’s luxurious lifestyle. The BBC reported that a 56-year-old father from West London, ploughed nearly £ 250,000 into the investment scam; a terrible blow for a family man.
Fonseka, 41, of Spring Grove Crescent, Hounslow, West London, is now serving an eight-year sentence after being convicted of money laundering, 30 counts of deception and unauthorised deposit taking. His fellow gang members include former solicitor John James, 56, of Short Hill, Nottingham, who was jailed for seven years after being convicted of deception, money laundering and unauthorised deposit taking.  Mushtaq Ahmed, 56, an accountant from Shay Fold, Bradford, was fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to unauthorised deposit taking, and was ordered to pay £5,000 costs. He was found not guilty by direction of a charge of money laundering.
Samantha Koralage, 38, of Elvin Court, Kingsbury, London, and Upul De Zoysa, 60, of Long Lane, Ickenham, west London, have pleaded guilty to unauthorised deposit taking and will be sentenced on February 28. American businessman John Napoli, 51, of Sevenoaks, Kent, was convicted of unauthorised deposit taking and is due to be sentenced on February 17.

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