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SJB takes ‘sugar racket’ to CIABOC, demands PCoI

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The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) youth movement yesterday (1) lodged a complaint with the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), calling for an investigation into the alleged sugar fraud, which it says caused a loss of Rs. 11 billion to the state coffers.

Filing the complaint, Samagi Tharuna Balawegaya Chairman MP Mayantha Dissanayake said that in addition to the bribery investigation, a Presidential Commission of Inquiry should also be appointed to probe every aspect of the alleged fraud and the persons involved in it. 

Samagi Tharuna Balawegaya Propaganda Secretary Rasika Jayakody, National Organiser Chamith Wijesundera and Attorney-at-Law Madhawa Jayawardena were present to file the complaint.

“Approximately, a consignment of 75,000 MT of sugar was imported by a powerful businessman after the import duty on sugar was reduced to 25 cents per kilo. Several other consignments of sugar are still arriving. Despite the drastic reduction in duty, there was no significance decrease in the sugar prices in the market. The state-owned Sathosa purchased sugar at higher prices and sold it at Rs. 85 per kilogram. We suspect that some racketeers with links to the government made huge profits.

“The impact of the alleged sugar fraud was two-fold. On the one hand, it deprived the government of a staggering amount of tax revenue. According to our calculations, this amounts to Rs. 11 billion. On the other hand, the benefit of the duty reduction was not passed on to consumers.

“We urged the Bribery Commission to probe the alleged involvement of former Sathosa Chairman Nushad Perera’s in this and his connection with Sajad Mowzoon, the owner of the company which imported sugar. When we raised the matter in Parliament, no member of the ruling party came out with a proper answer.” 

The MP said the alleged sugar fraud was similar to the Treasury Bonds scams which took place under the yahapalanaya government. “At least President Sirisena appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate the scam and the legal proceedings were initiated based on the report. We hope President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will have the courage to investigate the corruption allegation faced by his own officials and supporters.” 

Dissanayake said the SJB, as the main opposition, would continue to monitor the progress of the bribery investigation. “Our struggle will not stop here. We will continue to raise this issue in Parliament and demand answers. This staggering deal should not be swept under the carpet. Everyone involved in this deal, irrespective of their positions or allegiance, should be brought to justice.”



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Colombo Stars defeat Dambulla Aura by 9 runs at Sooriyawewa

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Colombo stars defeated Dambulla Aura by nine runs in the 5th game of LPL 2022 at MRICS Sooriyawewa .on Thursday.

Colombo Stars 165-9  in 20 overs (Niroshan Dickwella 62, Ravi Bopara 26, Dinesh Chandimal 29*; Lahiru Kumara 4-36, Sikkandar Raza 1-31, Tharindu Ratnayake 1-20, Lahiru Madushanaka 1-17)

Dambulla Aura 156/7 in 20 overs (Shevon Daniel 28, Jordan Cox 29, Tom Abell 33, Dasun Shanaka 31*; Suranga Lakmal 2-29, Dominic Drakes 2-35, Naveen-ul-Haq 1/22, Karim Janat 2-30)

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Govt. under pressure to tackle corruption in revenue inflow

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Amendments to Exchange Control Act contemplated

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya yesterday (07) said the government would introduce some amendments to the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017 as part of its response to the continuing financial crisis.

The SLFPer mentioned that amendments were necessary to restore the authority exercised by the Central Bank in respect of regulation of foreign exchange before the enactment of the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017, adding that the government has received several proposals in this regard.

The State Finance Minister said so when The Island sought a clarification as regards rebel SLPP accusations that the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017, enacted during the Yahapalana administration, allowed exporters to ‘park’ funds overseas. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Wimal Weerawansa and Gevindu Cumaratunga had estimated the stashed amount at over USD 35 bn.

Siyambalapitiya acknowledged that the amendments that had been introduced in 2017 deprived the Central Bank of certain regulatory powers.

The Island

raised the issue at hand with Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, yesterday (07) consequent to his declaration that as much as USD 53.5 bn had been ‘parked’ overseas. This claim was made during the committee stage of the ongoing debate on the Appropriation Bill.

Minister Rajapakse said that Nanayakkara, Weerawansa and Cumaratunga, too, had referred to the same funds though he was able to obtain the latest figures.

Responding to another query, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka emphasised that the situation had further deteriorated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, etc. According to him, the figures available with him dealt with the past 12 years.

The Justice Minister said that he discussed this with the Central Bank. Lawmaker Rajapakse said that in the absence of regulatory powers, the Central Bank hadn’t been able to make necessary interventions.

The Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, told The Island that the urgent need for amendments to the Exchange Control Act No 12 of 2017 had been taken up with the relevant authorities. Dr. Weerasinghe said that the ongoing controversy, over funds ‘parked’ overseas, gathered momentum against the backdrop of his recent speech, at the AGM of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association, where the inordinate delay, on the part of the exporters to convert export earnings to rupees, was highlighted.

In terms of current foreign exchange regulations, the exporters are required to convert 25 percent of their export proceeds, within a month, and all export proceeds within 180 days.

Having found fault with apparel, tea and rubber for the unsatisfactory conversion rate of forex earnings, Dr. Weerasinghe said that they were in the process of examining a selected group of exporters but realized the majority weren’t forthcoming with the required data.

The Justice Minister said that the entire revenue collection system was utterly corrupt, influenced and manipulated by interested parties. “The people are suffering because of continuing corruption at every level. Those responsible for revenue collection are part of the growing racket. They seem to be unstoppable,” he said.

Dr. Rajapakse said that there couldn’t be a better example than continuing the racket in security stickers on bottles of liquor to highlight the pathetic situation here. The Minister alleged that the racket, involving liquor manufacturers and some excise officials, deprived the Treasury a massive amount in revenue. In spite of frequent media exposure, the racket continued unabated, Dr. Rajapakse said, adding that those who defended the manufacturer of the security sticker were all part of the scam.

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Criminal waste at State Hospital revealed

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Chairman, Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital, Professor Shanthilal Devapriya Jayaratne responds to probing questions from COPE members (Pic courtesy parliament)

Surgical items thrown away amidst shortages

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has called for a comprehensive report from Sri Jayewardenepura General Hospital regarding hiring of a private surveyor, way back in 2015 although the Surveyor General’s Department had completed the task.

The COPE, chaired by Prof. Ranjith Bandara, on 06 Dec, asked the Legal Officer of the hospital to provide a list of persons responsible for hiring the private surveyor.

During the inquiry, several irregularities were exposed, according to parliamentary sources. The COPE raised the issue of 80% of surgical items being discarded due to the expiration of shelf life. The hospital management said that they had received a report compiled, following an inquiry. Those items had been procured at a cost of Rs 4.2 mn for the neurosurgical unit of the hospital.

Health Secretary Dr. Asela Gunawardena was to submit a comprehensive report in this regard within two weeks.

The COPE also called for reports on spending Rs 1.8 mn on a software package and spending Rs 19.7 for scanning and uploading documents in 2019.

Lawmakers also discussed how payments had been made for unfinished work undertaken by various parties. (SF)

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