Advisor to President Maithripala Sirisena, Chris Nonis continued to remain mum amidst allegations that he had pilfered Rs. 1.1 billion in a scam.
Employees of the Agalawatte Plantations PLC of the Mackwoods Group have accused Nonis, who was the former Sri Lankan High Commissioner to UK and his lawyer sister Shelendra Nonis Ranaweera for pilfering Rs 1.1 billion rupees from Agalawatte Plantations PLC to United Kingdom.
Even though the Colombo Telegraph sent Dr. Nonis an email containing several queries two days back on the allegation, he is yet to respond to the questions.
According to the employees, Nonis, and his sister is alleged to have hoodwinked not only the poor estate workers, who presently have Rs. 400 million owed to them on statutory (EPF/ETF) and other dues, but also the shareholders and the Directors of the Mackwoods Group, by siphoning through Nonis’s privately-owned company APL Teas (Pvt) Ltd, unknown to Mackwoods shareholders.
APL Teas (Pvt) Ltd, is jointly owned by the brother and sister duo, who have equal shares of the company. Until last month when litigation commenced, employees and shareholders were made to believe APL Teas (Pvt) Ltd is a fully owned subsidiary of Agalawatte Plantations PLC.
Several senior employees, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed that from 2005 to 2015, APL Teas Pvt. Ltd. has siphoned out Rs. 1.134 Billion in the disguise of providing marketing and promotional services to Agalawatte Plantation PLC, but the revenue of the company has never improved with such services. All those fictitious expenditures are set off against the monies due to Agalawatte Plantation PLC.
With no mention of the true owners (shareholders) of APL Teas (Pvt) Ltd in the annual reports of Agalawatte Plantations PLC, doctor-lawyer duo has robbed Rs. 1.134 Billion and most of those monies have been transferred to the UK, under the guise of ‘international marketing, branding and promotional expenses’, allege employees.
The employees also charged that there was an overnight change of ownership of Taprospa Resorts Pvt Ltd, where Nonis transferred 60% of Agalawatte Plantations PLC shares to a private company called Taprospa Holdings Pvt Ltd, which is 100% owned by him. Taprospa is the hotel arm of Agalawatte Plantations PLC that owns Billion Rupee Taprospa Foot Prints Hotel in Beruwala.
In November 2015, estate workers carried out a massive protest at Mackwoods premises in Borella demanding payment of their statutory dues (EPF/ETF) amounting to approximately Rs. 300 million.
Company sources say the Nonis-Ranaweera duo has also brought Dinesh Ranaweera, the husband of Shelendra to Mackwoods Group as the latest ‘partner-in-crime’. As per reliable sources, the trio are now doctoring the books, causing the delay of the Agalawatte AGM since the Annual Report requires to be published under the Companies Act.
Employees say it is now evident why Dr. Chris Nonis never stepped down from the position of Chairman when he was appointed as High Commissioner to the UK, an accepted practice when taking on a public appointment. During his tenure as the Sri Lankan High Commissioner for UK, he continued to oversee and control all key operations of the Mackwoods Group, particularly Agalawatte Plantations PLC, where employees are fully aware he had regular video conferencing from UK, and key employees made regular trips to UK to have discussions with him relating to Company matters.
Ironically, the employees lamented that Dr. Chris Nonis is a trustee of Prince Charles British Asian Trust and that contributions made by him were virtually blood money of poor Sri Lankan tea estate workers.
Dr. Nonis was appointed as Presidential Advisor by Sirisena in 2015.