SriLankan Airlines has called for tenders for the supply and provision of duty free goods for sale on board its aircraft as a total solution on a concessionaire basis with the closing date fixed for the 15th November 2016.
The tenders have been called as the current controversial duty free supplier Duty Free Partners’ contract with the national carrier ends November 2016 and the ongoing programme eventually concludes on 31st March 2017.
The bids have been called as the current contract signed between SriLankan Airlines and Duty Free Partners state that the existing contract could be extended for two more years if both parties amicably agree to it.
However SriLankan Airlines portraying that they are not interested to carry on, have advertised seeking a new partner for a fresh five year period.
Duty Free Partners initially known as Phoenix Rising Ventures took over the supply of both wines and duty free for SriLankan Airlines out of tender procedures in 2011. This was during the reign of the former Rajapaksa regime when President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother in law and Chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe was alleged to have received monies and a Rolex wristwatch for offering the deal to Duty Free Partners a company that had no prior experience in running a duty free business.
Duty Free Partners’ operations with SriLankan Airlines was then and is currently run by by Sri Lankan born Canadian national and CEO Rumesh Dilan Wirasinghe whose name recently appeared in the offshore leaks database released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ report states that Rumesh Dilan Wirasinghe has two off shore accounts linked to Canada.
The operation in Colombo is run by its Managing Director Raju Chandiram. Chandiram also previously served as a Director of the national carrier.
However controversy still surrounds the awarding of the contract with alleged rumours been spread by Duty Free Partners that they have the “first right of refusal” and ” offer to match” any better bid placed by any prospective bidder.
This rumour is believed to have been spread to put off any prospective bidder with days left to the closing date.
A very reliable source speaking to Colombo Telegraph said “It is strange that Rashmore Ferdinands the Manager In Flight Services and Duty Free has been appointed as a key player in this bid. Ferdinands himself was one of the signatories representing the national carrier when this controversial deal was awarded to Duty Free Partners at the inception. Ferdinands over the last five years was positioned at In Flight Services to specifically ensure that the duty free business ran smoothly more for the supplier rather than the airline he represents. Even all his other duties pertaining to In Flight Services was handed over to Senaka De Soysa, who was subsequently promoted to Ferdinand’s grade. It can be confirmed that Rashmore Ferdinands was looked after handsomely and even receiving Christmas hampers containing champagne, cash vouchers to dine at Maharajah Palace Restaurant and goodies purchased from ODEL during the festive season from Duty Free Partners. So how can he be appointed to be involved in this bid? He is bound to do what it takes to fix this bid for Duty Free Partners. This is absurd!”
“Further Duty Free Partners faulted on many occasions during the last five years where they did not honour their signed contract. Besides purchasing excessive volumes of alcohol, cigarettes and perfumes using the airline’s bar code and selling them to third parties, they even defrauded the Flight Attendants, they very staff who sold their goods on board. From the inception of the contract they had to give the staff a 25% discount on all products purchased on board. However they offered staff on a 10% discount on cigarettes and a 15% discount on alcohol during the first 18 months. This was subsequently rectified when the former Flight Attendants Union President Dinesh Fernando and his Executive Committee met up with Duty Free Partners’ Managing Director Raju Chandiram over dinner at Urban Kitchen and sorted it out. With the top 18 products sold on board being alcohol and cigarettes, the staff was defrauded of over Rs 20 million.
However even now with the supplier contractually obliged to offer passengers frequent promotions on board, they increased the prices of all goods overnight and now offer passengers a discount of 20% on all products. They even offer a 25% discount if passengers make a pre-order purchase. This is the same discount that even the staff gets. So what benefit do staff get over the passengers now? “he said.
There is no information or any news of either Dilan Rumesh Wirasinghe or Raju Chandiram on the Duty Free Partner website www.dutyfreepartners.com, even though the site claims that they have offices in Canada, Miami and Sri Lanka.