SriLankan Airlines is said to continue its controversial partnership with its in flight duty free supplier Duty Free Partners formerly known as Phoenix Duty Free Rising Ventures for two more years, as their five year contract draws to a close in November 2016.
Phoenix Duty Free Rising Ventures who kept changing its name several times over the years to Phoenix Duty Frees Services and then finally to Duty Free Partners, is headed 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 when it was then named Air Lanka. He was appointed to the Board of Directors in 2004 – 2007.
According to the initial contract signed by the national carrier and Duty Free Partners, the extension is permissible for a further two years if both parties amicably agree.
The contract was initial signed in November 2011 and the five year in flight duty free programme commenced operations during the financial year of 2012 / 2013.
The controversial awarding of the contract out of tender procedures was also highlighted in the “Weliamuna Report” when the national carrier was ordered to be investigated by the government in February of 2015. The report highlighted staggering losses the airline was incurring after the signed contract was amended midway through the contract.
Based on lawyer Weliamuna’s report, the airline will eventually stand to lose over US $ 8 million when the deal which strangely still continues comes to an end with the current financial year.
Aviation experts are baffled as to why this deal was not ceased when it was exposed in full in the Weliamuna Report. This contract was signed during the previous Rajapaksa regime and till to date not a single FCID investigation has been held into this blatant ongoing robbery of the national carrier. Despite Raju Chandiram being a Sri Lankan national neither he nor the freely roaming CEO Rumesh Dialn Wirasinghe have been hauled in for questioning.
The controversy still continues where Phoenix Duty Free Services against its contractual obligations, purchases colossal stock of duty free such as cigarettes, alcohol and perfumes on behalf of the national carrier and transports it to a warehouse in Singapore. According to its contract with the airline, goods purchased using the bar code of the airline has to be transported directly from the supplier to the bonded stores of the national carrier. The extra stock sent to Singapore is then sold to third parties where US dollars in the millions are made.
However SriLanka airlines further lost a staggering 37% of its guaranteed income due to a technical glitch worded in the contract. Promising to pay US cents 84 per passenger carried and rising annually to eventually US $ 1.17, the contract was amended due to the count of passengers on transit flights been duplicated by the national carrier. The previous Board of Directors of Sri Lankan Airlines who amended the contract was headed by John Keells Chairman Susantha Ratnayake and Director Sanath Ukwatte, close associates of Raju Chandiram.