Ruling United National Party party member, member of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Legal Affairs (anti-corruption) and committee member on Public Finance and current Galle District MP Wijepala Hettiarachchi has got caught red handed advertising his brand new Toyota Land Cruiser to be sold in the open market, where he used his tax concessionary terms extended to members of parliament to import duty free vehicles.
According to the Sri Lanka Customs import papers the actual cost of the imported vehicle is stated as Rs 9.2 million even though MP Hettiarachchi has advertised to sell it for Rs 39.5 million.
Unlike others he has even used the print media and websites to boldly advertise the vehicle for sale in the open market.
A whopping sum of Rs 33,457,500.00 is the total loss to the government as the stated amount in the customs import papers that has been waived off for this purpose.
Readers can compare the Engine Number and the Chassis Number of the vehicle in the advert (for sale of Toyota Land Cruiser imported on MP permit) with the same information provided in the import declaration presented for Customs purposes and the tax-waiver granted for this vehicle
The relevant Customs Declaration presented for this vehicle is re-produced below:
Meanwhile in a letter addressed to the Director General of Customs, lawyer and rights activist Nagananda Kodituwakku in a letter dated November 10, 2016 accused the Director General of intentionally violating the Constitutional rights conferred in all citizens in terms of Article 14A (1) (b) of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Right to Information Act No 12 of 2016 and also the provisions of Section 6 Paragraph XLVII of Volume II of the Establishment Code – to obtain the said information helped with the office of the Director General of Customs.
Kodituwakku accused the Director General of Customs that he had not only violated the public trust placed in his office, but had abused his office to protect the interest of dishonest politicians, while also helping them in unjust enrichment by defrauding the government revenue.
At least 77 MPs in Parliament have used their duty free permits to purchase luxury vehicles in 2016 alone, which has resulted in the country losing billions of rupees in revenue.
Most of the vehicles that have been imported have been Toyota Land Cruisers, Hummers, BMW’s and Mercedes Benz. In July, Kodituwakku told the Supreme Court that the MPs instantly make as much as Rs. 25 million for each permit they sold, which they receive free of charge from the government.
After coming to power, the Maithripala Sirisena – Ranil Wickremesinghe led administration, having appraised the colossal losses sustained under the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, in its first budget presented in the parliament on November 20, 2015 declared that government had incurred a heavy loss of over 40 billion rupees on tax free car permits, therefore the administration proposed to abolish all such permits altogether including the permits issued to MPs which was openly abused by them.
However, few months later, the same Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake who presented the initial fiscal policy statement made a U turn and made an order (published in the Gazette (No 1965/2 of 02nd May 2016) under Sec 3C of Excise (Special Provisions) Act exempting levies on motor vehicles imported by MPs with CIF value up to US $ 62,500/. However, as required by the law to protect the government revenue, there was no condition whatsoever imposed against the abuse of such permits, allowing MPs to sell their permits in the open market. (Janaka Ranaweera and Kumudu Goonaratne)