By Colombo Telegraph –
“I write further to the instruction of the informant who claimed to have provided the credible information of a revenue fraud in which two companies namely LOLC and LB Finance are directly involved. This particular information has been given to the Deputy Director Mr. G.H.G.A.Lankadeva (Central Valuation), concerning importation of a large number of ‘permit cars’ by fraudulent means where the permits have been bought outright by the aforesaid companies from the recipients of permits, including Power of Attorney and MTA6, making those who have bought permits de facto owners of the vehicles, an act which is prohibited under the law” Public Interest Litigator Nagananda Kodituwakku has written to Director General of Customs Neville Gunawardana.
The three year restriction that was in place on transfer of duty free vehicles imported by public servants has been lifted with immediate effect by the Finance Ministry.
Confidential government documents obtained by Colombo Telegraph shows the reason behind the move. A government official, who declined to be identified, confirmed the documents were authentic. The Colombo Telegraph has been unable to reach Nagananda Kodituwakku for comment.
Board of directors of the two companies involved with this massive revenue fraud are highly influential and one such person is Dhammika Perera, the former Chairman/ Director-General of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI). He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Strategic Enterprises Management Agency (SEMA) and the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB). Another is Justice Suresh Chandra who served as the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to United Nations in New York in 2009. President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed Justice Suresh Chandra as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in June 2010 and retired from that position in July 2012. He still serves as a Judge of the Supreme Court in Fiji since his appointment in Fiji in 2011.
Click here for Board of directors – LOLC
Click here for Board of directors – LB Finance
Public Interest Litigator Nagananda Kodituwakku wrote; “However, it is now learnt (or my client has reliably been informed) that these two cases would not be proceeded amidst strong opposition raised against the enforcement of law on the revenue fraudsters concerned. We wish to inform you that regardless of any unlawful directions you may be getting apparently from the ST, you are, being the General Superintendent of all matters relating to Customs, under duty to enforce the revenue protection provisions of the Custom Ordinance appropriately and our client’s interests in the instant case.”
Treasury Secretary repeatedly complaints about the lack of funds to maintain the essential services like education, health, transport and also to provide a decent salary for services funded by the government. Yet what he practices is completely opposite of what he preaches and surely against the public interest, particularly when it comes to the collection and protection of government revenue.
Facilitation of duty free car imports
Annually a large number of permits are issued by the Finance Ministry to import cars free of Customs duty and this facility is afforded to various categories of people under the Customs Law (Section 19A) on the basis that the Minister of Finance considers that issuance of permits to such persons is meaningful in the ‘public interest’.
How Treasury circumvent the law to facilitate fraudster elements
However, the Colombo Telegraph, based on startling evidence received, can now reveal with confidence that this is nothing more than another deceptive ploy Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera adopts to ‘facilitate’ his close associates to import luxury cars absolutely duty free defrauding the government revenue.
Punitive duties imposed on cars
In Sri Lanka the tax table on cars released by Customs provides how punitive and unreasonable the tax imposed on cars. The combined taxation for even the smallest car like Indian made Maruti is over 200% and for the smallest diesel driven car is over 250%.
How the fraudsters evade taxation
Those who are in the ‘trade’ are well conversant with the ways and means as to how to defy the tax system. The table shows over 350% duty on diesel cars of over 2500cc but that is never applied on duty free permits issued in the ‘so-called public interest’ by the Finance Ministry subject to condition that no such cars shall be sold or disposed in any manner for a period of three years from the date of importation.
ST condones open defiance of the law
Further to information received on 13th November 2012, a group of Customs officers’ raided two leading and influential business entities in Colombo companies namely LOLC and LB Finance that had imported a large number of duty free cars completely defrauding the government tax element. Immediately thereafter the Director General of Customs Neville Gunawardana, who is under duty to protect the government revenue, purportedly on the orders of the General Treasury was forced to withdraw the officers and stop the investigation. Although the officers were prevented from seizing the vehicles they still managed to seize all the documentation relevant to the abuse of duty free permits from the two business establishments.
Informant intervenes and protests the DGC at fault
The said action by the DGC clearly denied the informant who provided accurate information of his legitimate share for a cash reward. This situation has put DDC G H G A Lankadeva who has received the information under heavy pressure from the informant. This was followed by a warning letter dated 14th Nov 2012 to the DGC by Nagananda Kodituwakku who was protecting the legitimate rights of the informant, in the event the law is flouted by the DGC letting the fraudsters go scot-free.
Finance Ministry intervenes to protect the fraudster elements
On the following day i.e. 15th Nov 2012, a directive by the Finance Ministry on the matter reached the DGC’s office. This surprised directive, which is clearly unlawful, has removed all restrictions imposed on the duty free permits with retrospective effect, effectively preventing the officers of Customs from enforcing the law against the fraudster elements who had abused the duty free permits and defrauded the government revenue.
DGC directs the closing of investigations
Then on 19th Nov 2012, the head of the investigation G H G A Lankadeva makes the following minute to his investigation team, resulting in shutting down the investigation into this massive fraud completely, on the orders of the Finance Ministry (15-11-2012).
‘…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…’
This is how the Head of the Treasury of Sri Lanka, openly flouts the law whilst his government is framing the Chief Justice of the country for alleged abuse of office.