17 November, 2018

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Duty Free Vehicles To Politicos And The Billions Rupee Scam

By Nagananda Kodituwakku

Nagananda Kodituwakku

Nagananda Kodituwakku

Dishonest politicians should be held accountable for unjust enrichment of taxpayers’ money in billions 

The Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils Ministry Secretary R A A K Ranawaka in a press release to the media states that the Government has cleared vehicle permits to the value of USD 3.2 million to be given to newly elected Western and Southern Provincial Council members and the newly elected members of both Councils will receive vehicle permits to the value of USD 50,000 each. He further states that some provincial council members have already sold their permits but it is not illegal.

It seems that those holding high public offices have disregarded the constitutional oath given below (fourth schedule to the Constitution), which require every person elected to any public office to take, before resuming the performance of the duties of any public office.

“I ……………………………………………………. do solemnly declare and affirm / swear that I will faithfully perform the duties and discharge the functions of the office of …………………………………. in accordance with the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and the law, and that I will be faithful to the Republic of Sri Lanka and that I will to the best of my ability uphold and defend the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.”

Exemption of levies on duty free cars

The Customs Ordinance as amended in 1988, provides (Section 19A) that the Minister of Finance may, if he deems it expedient in the public interest so to do, by Order published in the Gazette exempt any goods imported by, or consigned to, any person specified in the Order from the whole or any part of the duties of customs leviable thereon, subject to such conditions (to be fulfilled before or after clearance) as may be specified in the Order.

This provision of law also provides that where any goods specified in an Order made under subsection are subsequently sold or disposed of contrary to the conditions of such Order, such goods shall be liable to the same duty of customs as may by law be levied on like goods which are subject to duties of customs and the importer or person by whom or on whose behalf the goods are sold or disposed of shall prior to such sale or disposal obtain the permission of the Director-General and pay the duties payable on such goods at the time of such sale or disposal to the Director-General. Any goods sold or disposed of in contravention of such section shall be liable to be forfeited.

Licence Conditions later removed for unjust enrichment 

Originally all permits issued to import vehicles duty free were subject to stringent conditions, under which sale, transfer, mortgage or disposal of a vehicle imported on a duty free permit was absolutely prohibited by law and any such vehicle were liable to be forfeited by the Director General of Customs.

However, further to seizure of several such vehicles unlawfully sold or disposed of by the Customs, the government itself undermined the rule of law that permitted such imports, with which the stringent conditions that made the abuse of the duty free permit scheme a punishable offence, were completely done away with, facilitating the deceitful politicians for unjust enrichment. Yet, the law which permitted duty free permits remained unchanged, which permitted the Minister to issue duty free permits only if the Minister considered it expedient in the public interest so to do, to exempt payment of levies on such vehicles.

Serving a public interest only a fraud 

Now the government claims that sale of permits are not illegal, but the fact remains that any such abuse clearly violates the primary purpose for which the permits were allowed, as the issuance of permits were considered expedient or beneficial in the public interest. Therefore, it is rather clear that the abuse of the permit system and selling permits in the open market for several million rupees, clearly amount to an act of misappropriation of public funds that also amounts to an actionable wrong of unjust enrichment in the absence of any legal basis for such enrichment

Billions of taxpayers’ money siphoned

The concept of unjust enrichment is based upon the Roman legal maxim “no one should be benefited at another’s expense” (nemo locupletari potest aliena iactura or nemo locupletari debet cum aliena iactura). Hence, in all cases of abuse of the duty free permit system, which clearly permits unjust enrichment at the expense of the taxpayer, regardless of liability for wrongdoing, the people of this country, who enjoy the sovereignty of Sri Lanka, have every right to sue the Minister in charge of the subject of Finance, who is responsible for opening the floodgates to politicians to defraud the taxpayers’ money in billions as well as those who have abused the duty free permit system for unjust enrichment with no legal basis whatsoever, as claims in unjust enrichment do not depend upon proof of any wrong.

Since the government openly condone this abuse, sans any accountability, it is up to the right thinking people of this country and the social groups that fight for social justice to take the right initiative to stop this abuse, which cost billions of taxpayers’ money in regular basis.

*Nagananda Kodituwakku – Attorney-at-Law

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Latest comments

  • 0
    5

    I think we should not wash dirty linen in public.

    • 0
      0

      Let me guess, you got to be the Parakrama with Nagi’s family name from Batugedara.

  • 3
    0

    We at all times respect the rights of the people to know the truth behind these high profile cases.

    Therefore, in the public interest, we have decided to publish the Directive issued by the Finance Ministry ‘withdrawing the permit conditions with respective office.

    See the note made in this illegal directive issued by Jayasunsara, by Mr Lankadeva (Director of Customs – Fraud Investigations) on 19th Nov 2012) after closing the case on Jayasundara’s illegal order.

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2012-11-15-FINANCE-MINISTRY-DIRECTIVE-1.pdf

    ‘…Please note the contents of this letter (Finance Ministry letter dated 15th Nov 2012 on which the minute is made) and the effect if would have on our cases. DGC asked me to release the files already taken over…’

  • 1
    1

    Kolitha

    Why are you afraid to expose!

    This confirms your complicity

  • 1
    0

    This duty free car import permit scam and fraud is Rajapakses latest tactit to Lure people under his sarong.

    From Judges to politicians to all department heads to Journalists to Buddhist Monks to Armed forces and Police Dept etc,etc, covering every corner of Sri Lanka has come under Rajapakse wings.

    This is a very sad situation to our country with over 20 Billion Dollars in debt.

    It’s time to take back the country from Alibabas.

  • 2
    1

    The disclosure by whistleblowers (Jayasubdara’s illegal directive) should open the eyes of all right thinking people. How come this man (Jayasundara), a proven cheat, still hold the office of the ST.

    This is the wonder of Asia, and only here this kind of lawlessness at this magnitude could happen.

  • 1
    0

    The article and all comments confirm that the Sri Lankan state is corrupt to the core.
    As things are,there is no remedy,as even in the recent provincial council elections,the same corrupt lot have been elected/reelected.
    The less than 50% who did not vote may have abstained,knowing the “corrupt credentials” of most of the contestants.
    Sri Lanka is right at the bottom in the “corruption index”.

    There is no remedy,as the Rajapakse cabal has successfully diverted the attention of gullible voters to the ‘resurrected’ LTTE and to the ‘militant monks’.

  • 1
    0

    Even if no one is able to declare war against these kinds of scams and
    frauds, a future Government will appoint a Commission of Inquiry into
    frauds of tax-payers monies during he period of this Regime, when all
    such losses will be recovered by the sale of their assets. This is the
    only way Justice to the Public can be served. Let ST and his henchmen be warned.

  • 1
    0

    I have nothing more to say except absolutely agreeing with what Justice says.

    It is sad that the people of the nation is kept in dark since the exposures of the conduct of the rouge regime of this nature are not allowed to be seen by the common masses.

  • 0
    0

    The Customs Law introduced by the British cover all areas of frauds, including severe punishment to the officers collude with the cheats.

    However, what is seen in practice is completely the opposite. All are happy with the system that encourages wrongdoing.

    Most disheartening thing is the worst revenue policy of the government that completely rely on the revenue (more than 90%) collected from the heavy tax imposed on essential commodities, which include the infant milk power, sugar, flour, petrol and diesel and other essential food items, whilst turning a blind eye on the major revenue frauds that deny billions of tax revenue.

  • 0
    0

    I think we the people of Sri Lanka should raise our hats off for the officers like Mr Lankadeva, in the Customs for performing their duty under tremendously difficult circumstances.

  • 1
    0

    Mr President,

    Please remove the blockade impose on Colombo Telegraph, the only media that enlighten us with what we are entitled to know.

    Show the world that accuse you for failure to observe the rule of law and good governance, that you respect the people right to information.

  • 1
    0

    I know this gentleman officer, Mr Lankadeva. He is fully fed up with the lawlessness in the Customs, where the officers who refuse to compromise with their integrity with cheats are targeted.

    I know that this officer too plans to migrate to migrate to Australia in the near future. I wish this officer good luck in his future endeavour.

    God save Sri Lanka

  • 1
    0

    We demand all trade unions in the Customs Department to declare their stand to the people. Their silence only convey the message to people that they prefer the current system, that sideline good officers.

  • 0
    0

    Recently Minister rambukwella in reply accusation of ill-gotten wealth accumulated by him admitted in public that he earned 30 million rupees by selling his duty free permits.

    This is about 50 % of the tax revenue and other half goes to the importer who import the vehicle on permit tax free.

    How come one justify this gross misappropriation of public funds by selling a permit issued in the PUBLIC INTEREST.

  • 0
    0

    JRJ started tax free permits for MPs. His aim had been to corrupt his MPs and retain their loyalty. Thanks for JRJ’s devious tactic, MPs sold their permit underhand and used it to pay for their election expenses. UNP benefited because five out of six MPs were their lot. Chandrika and Ranil as executive PM followed never deviated from JRJ footsteps.

    40 JVP MPs chose to join the illegal permit sale collectively. JVP secretary general said the party will use the (illegal) gains to fatten the party fund. Vasu and other old leftist MPs sold their permits to fatten their pockets. We were forced to watch their illegal gains and be happy. No MP dare talk about the illegal of permit sale in the house for they were all happy. But the permit sale continued to be illegal at least officially.

    MR is a master tactician who could have beaten JRJ on any count. MR knows never ending public expectations are rising very fast. He realized he has to make not just the MPs but top government administrators corrupt to foreclose official bureaucracy and get things moving the way he wants and fast to meet the public demand.

    So, high value permits were issued to top government administrators on reduced taxes. Very many who didn’t need luxury vehicles also have the right to have one. They sold their permits through car importers, openly and made a fast buck. All this time, everyone sold and bought their permits illegally but openly.

    All of a sudden, some Custom official became brave and decided to act according to law. But the law on ‘permits’ has been an ass for a long long time. If allowed almost all the new vehicles and very many old vehicles would be ceased. Not just that every MP would be dragged to courts as well. So, it is not wrong government made the common illegal practice legal.

    MR should scrap the permits next and stop the unjust earnings by a selected few next.

  • 0
    0

    Since, number of references are made Customs officers in this article and public opinions, I thought I should air the correct perspective of the customs on this Racket.

    Recently being a officer attached to prevention of frauds directorate I investigated into a permit vehicle unlawfully sold by a Provincial Council member. At the time the permit condition that made the disposal of the permit or the vehicle imported on permit illegal was there ((later removed by the ST Jayasundara. (I saw his unlawful directive also published in the Colombo Telegraph).

    At the inquiry held into this case the provincial counsellor admitted the unlawful sale of the vehicle imported on the permit defrauding the tax and therefore the vehicle was confiscated straight away.

    Every body knows this is a massive racket denying billions of public funds . Yet, thanks to the most efficient and honest public servant, who run the Treasury, all the law enforcement agencies are now helpless.

    I believe that this lawless situation will continue unabated, as long as the most corrupt people are chosen to head the high profile public offices.

  • 0
    0

    The JVP also implicated in this abuse of public funds which they claim for party interest.

    The defence that it was done for the party interest is not acceptable at all. With their double standard the JPV too have lost their right to talk about the good governance.

  • 0
    0

    Party interests can no way supersede the public interest and JVP knowledge that act (selling of duty free permis) was a clear abuse of public funds.

    This demonstrate that this party, that talks a lot about morality in politics has lost its credibility.

  • 0
    0

    It is the Govt policy to issue tax free permits with no restriction to sell them to car importers.

    I don’t think that there is anything wrong in selling them because it is the wish of the permit holder (who is issued with the permit) to sell them and to share the duty component with the end user of the permit.

    Some pensioners were also issued with these permits to make little money at their retirement as a retirement benifit.

    • 0
      0

      Nothing wrong the government making an openly practiced illegal law legal. What’s wrong is we’re made to pay heavy taxes on all poor man’s vehicles, while permits have paved a way for the rich to buy their luxury vehicles with little or no tax. And a few privileged permit holders earn a windfall in an immoral way. This is not right. Alas! JVP keeps mum for they have become a part of the scam.

  • 0
    0

    Those who criticise the selling of tax free permits and sharing of tax component, will do the same if they get such an opportunity.

  • 0
    0

    What appears below taken from the news item published in the Sunday Times today.

    “…… An official of the Vehicle Importers Association of Sri Lanka said that they were among those who were hit when the free sale of permits was introduced.
    “The reconditioned car market suffered a big loss due to the free availability of vehicle permits which were purchased by a few who imported luxury vehicles,” he said.

    Recently Customs officials too had raised concerns about the trend and the tax loss incurred due to permit sales and had asked the Government to consider banning the advertising of vehicle permits….”

    This simply demonstrates the lawlessness in the county is now beyond control and even vey Govt responsible for this scam is now incapable of controlling it.

  • 0
    0

    Excellent work Nagi, keep up the good work. Good luck, the honest Sri lankan population are with people like uou, always.

  • 0
    0

    The JVP claims that is is the only party that is honest and its efforts to restore to Rule of Law and Good Governance are transparent and genuine.

    It is learned those who have elected to the Parliament and local councils from the JVP too have compromised their integrity and applied for tax free permits, which they have later sold ( in the market for ‘PUBLIC INTEREST’) misappropriating hundreds of millions of the tax revenue.

    People know that both SLFP and UNP are equally corrupt. And it appears that JVP too is in the league.

    In this backdrop, I wish to question the JVP on behalf of my fellow citizens about What moral right this party has to come before the people ask for a mandate to rule this country.

  • 0
    0

    Why most of you trying to find fault with the JVP, which has nothing to do with the tax free permit system.

    First and foremost question the two main parties (SLFP @ UNP) responsible for introducing the tax free permit system to politicians.

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