Indian businessman’s ‘gruelling experience’ in SL: Cash, jewelery and passports stolen



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This photograph sent by Kamath shows his aunt (left) with the handbag before it was stolen during their stay in Nuwara Eliya.


BY SURESH PERERA


An affluent Indian businessman on holiday in Sri Lanka with his family and relatives expressed bitterness over, what they termed, a "harrowing experience" during a stay in a bungalow at Labookellie in Nuwara Eliya.


"It was a nightmare", protested Gopal Kamath, the owner of a 40-room tourist resort and three restaurants near Mumbai.


"The handbag of my aunt, Mrs. Padmawati Venkatesh Kamath, was stolen and we lost Indian rupees 250,000, gold jewelery and two passports", he asserted.


The valuables went missing from the room my aunt and uncle were occupying, Kamath claimed in an email from Mumbai, India, last week.


Expressing displeasure over the attitude of the owner of the private holiday bungalow, where the incident happened, the Indian visitor said, "When the theft was reported to him, he turned nasty and threatened and harassed us".


"He treated our complaint lightly and even went to the extent of accusing one of our family members of having taken the handbag, Kamath added.


It was an incredibly shocking and terrifying experience, he recalled. "We went through agony after losing our cash, valuables and two passports".


The bungalow’s owner was so furious after we lodged a police complaint that he shouted "All Indians are cheap, shame on you, Indians!", Kamath further asserted.


"At a time we were in distress, he humiliated us", he opined, while posing the question: Is this the way to treat a visitor from a friendly, neighboring country?


"The owner was so angry over the police complaint that he wanted us to check out, and despite the loss we suffered, he even wanted us to pay for our previous day’s meals", Kamath said.


Implying that we were making a false complaint to "claim insurance", he took up the position that the CCTV cameras in the bungalow "had no recording facility".


Dismissing the claim that he was impertinent to the Indian visitors, the holiday bungalow’s owner explained that the whole blame on the theft was being placed at his doorstep.


"When it has still not been figured out whether the handbag was stolen by the caretaker, an outsider or whether they had lost it somewhere else, it’s wrong to point a finger at us", he reasoned.


On the malfunctioning CCTV camera, he claimed it was a cheap, old system devoid of a recording facility. The windows were closed and the guests were advised not to open them as there are flies during the dry season. However, though one window had been opened, this was the first time a theft was reported, he elaborated.


They were asked to settle the bill for the previous day’s meals, he acknowledged, while insisting that the guests opted to check out on their own. "They were not asked to leave".


Kamath offered a bouquet to Inspector Sampath Ariyaratne, OIC, Crimes Branch, and Sub Inspector Wijekoon of the Nuwara Eliya Police for the professional way they handled the investigation into their complaint.


"These two police officers were so proactive that they promptly visited the holiday bungalow with us, called in the fingerprint experts and a sniffer dog as the investigation got under way", the Indian businessman outlined.


"I am thankful to the police for supporting and helping us during the difficult time we faced", he continued.


The police deployed a sniffer dog, dusted for fingerprints and also took the caretaker of the bungalow to record a statement, the owner said.


"The caretaker is a trustworthy man, who even handles banking money on my behalf", the owner assured.


It doesn’t look like an "inside job", OIC Sampath Ariyaratne said.


There has been no breakthrough so far, he noted. "We are continuing investigations".


A window in the room, where the handbag was stolen, was found open with the curtain drawn over it, which, perhaps, had gone unchecked. This was the first time a theft was reported from the bungalow, the OIC elaborated.


It’s a genuine complaint as there is no reason for a person of the calibre of the Indian businessman to lodge a false entry, he further said.


The owner of the bungalow adopted a "don’t care attitude", the OIC claimed. "We are trying to get to the bottom of it".


Kamath said that the bungalow was booked through the Airbnb.com official website, paying Indian rupees 45,000/- in advance.


"Our group, which comprised 14 adults and five children, arrived in Sri Lanka on March 22, 2019. We initially visited Sigiriya and Kandy and enjoyed the awesome experience. It was in Nuwara Eliya that our holiday turned into a nightmare", he recounted.


There was only one towel in each room for the whole group, hot water was not available in some rooms, meals were over-priced and security was non-existent, Kamath complained. "Even the promised Wifi was not in working order".


"What would have been the position if, instead of taking the handbag from the window, my uncle and aunty were harmed by the intruder? Who would have been held responsible then?", he queried.


Under the circumstances, the bungalow is a very risky place to stay. This is compounded by the owner’s lack of basic etiquette, Kamath says.


He has asked Airbnb.com to de-list the property as it mars Sri Lanka’s image and reputation as a key tourist destination. Visitors should be able to carry with them fond memories of a pleasant stay within a peaceful and secure environment.


Kamath has also copied his complaint to the offices of the President and Prime Minister, Police, Sri Lanka Tourism Ministry, Indian External Affairs Ministry, Sri Lankan and Indian media institutions.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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