By Harsha de Silva –
It is exactly one year to date since Krrish Group signed an agreement with the Board of Investment to build a sprawling mixed development consisting of three dizzy 95 story towers and another 80 story tower at Transworks Square in the Fort. (Click here to read) Powerful ministers who backed the project said Krrish was partnering with Ritz Carlton to bring the seven-star hotel to Colombo besides the top brands to be sold at the ultra-luxurious retail mall.
When Parliament agreed to grant massive 25 year tax exemptions to Krrish Group last year it was based on the condition that the so-called investor was to make full payment for the 99-year lease for the 4.3 acre property as per the agreement and also have commercial operations begin on a given date. (Click here to read) Even though the opposition argued that there was a complete lack of transparency in the ‘deal’ the Government insisted that procedure was followed for such ‘unsolicited proposals’ and assured that the investor was committed to the at least USD 500 million investment, which was later increased to USD 1,400 million.
But one year on, the investor has not even completed the payment for the lease, let alone start construction. The massive hoardings advertising the shiny towers have disappeared and no statements are forthcoming from anyone on the current status. All the glitzy designs on its website are gone and only a sketch of the Transworks Square building, which invaluable building Krrish paid nothing at all to get; remain. (Click here to read)
It now seems that this whole project was a hoax and that Parliament was misled both by the Minister and by the investor. We demand that the massive tax breaks granted to this investor be cancelled immediately and an impartial investigation be launched in to what exactly happened. The investigation must find out who were behind this transaction and blacklist all such persons so that hereafter Parliament will not be duped by such fly-by-night operators with connections to high places.
From the very beginning of this purported project by the unknown Krrish Group we questioned the Government for information on who the promoters were; how the prime property came to be given to this company without any transparent process; what the role of the Central Bank and the UDA were and many other relevant questions. We got no credible answers except that that Krrish was a globally recognized real estate developer and was certainly going tochange the skyline of Colombo. Ministers reiterated that the almost USD 50 million for the land would be paid in full as soon as UDA was able to transfer the lease title to Krrish. Deadlines were given and revised several times starting from end of last year (Click here to read) to the last one of 15 July 2013 (Click here to read). For effect they slammed the opposition, including myself, as working against national interests.
While all this was going in public it is now well known that even more was happening in private. Over the last few months questions have been raised on whether money changed hands under the table. Names of several key figures including that of the current Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Dr Nalaka Godahewa have been linked in the main stream media to secret payments that have been allegedly paid to secure the legal rights to develop the land. Various statements have been made by the authorities that an investigation would take place, but in reality nothing at all has happened, except that the said person has purportedly been removed from several board positions on companies linked to the UDA leading to even more questions than answers. (Click here to read)
It is with regret that the UNP notes that Krrish seem not to be the only disappointment. Many so called massive development projects seem to be either stuck or going very slowly prompting us to ask the question whether these so called investors are real or pyramid scheme type scam artists who seem to have taken even the national legislature for a ride.
*Harsha de Silva is UNP spokesman on Economic Affairs