Nov 12, 2016

Officials who exposed the Customs Prado fraud in hot water Featured

The officials who exposed the Prado fraud that deprived the country over Rs. 1 billion in duty due to the intervention of the Finance Minister and initiated an investigation are in hot water, while Customs Director General Chulananda Perera has received orders to initiate disciplinary action against them.

The country was deprived of over Rs. One billion due to the import of Toyota Prado TRJ 150 without taxes.

These vehicles were imported to the country towards the latter part of 2015 on false documentation.

Upon discovering that these due to the import of these vehicles the country would lose a huge sum in taxes, the Customs decided not to release them from customs.

Independent Committee!

The Finance Minister had instructed the Customs Director General to release the detained vehicles on the day the Good Governance regime completed a year in office on January 08, 2016.

However by then an investigation had already commenced regarding the vehicles, under the guidance of Superintendent of Sri Lanka Customs S.K.A.S. Senanayake.

On January 17, 2016, the All Ceylon Customs Service Union had informed President Maithripala Sirisena regarding this fraud.

In response to the complaint made to the President the Union representatives were invited for a discussion by the President.

The appointment given for the discussion with the President was for March 09, 2016.

Subsequent to the talks held with the President, an independent committee was established to investigate this fraud.

Committee Negated:

After the customs officers who exposed the fraudulent vehicle import deal had given evidence before the established committee, it was disbanded based on the instructions of a high ranking VIP, even before the committee report was brought out.

Under this backdrop, the Customs Director General had initiated disciplinary action against the relevant customs officers who exposed this fraudulent vehicle deal.

The reasons justifying the disciplinary action against these officers is that due to this information regarding the vehicles leaking out of the Customs Department, it had tarnished the image of the establishment.

The investigations have been handed over to Customs Director Saman de Silva, but according to Customs Unions, he is not a suitable person to conduct such an investigation.

Saman de Silva was remanded on allegations of trying to commit murder and is now out on bail.

In addition, his appointment as a Customs Director has so far not been endorsed by the Public Service Commission.

When he was promoted to his current position, Silva was in remand custody.

Den of Thieves:

However, the Customs Superintendent S. K. A. S. Senanayake who prevented the release of these vehicles has been summoned before Saman de Silva for a disciplinary inquiry on November 17.

The Finance Minister had previously instructed that Rs. 5 million each be charged for the release of this stock of vehicles.

However, what should have been charged for the release of these vehicles was Rs. 8 million per vehicle.

The Finance Minister had later instructed the Customs officials to charge Rs. 1.6 million per vehicle and release the vehicles from Customs charge.

However, the Customs official conducting the investigation and Director General had informed the relevant divisions not to charge even the Rs. 1.6 million and release the stock vehicles.

The Unions point out that the Finance Minister by such fraudulent deeds is turning the Customs Department into a den of thieves.

Although we made several attempts to contact the Finance Minister to get his comment regarding this incident, our efforts proved futile.

The officials who exposed the Prado fraud that deprived the country over Rs. 1 billion in duty due to the intervention of the Finance Minister and initiated an investigation are in hot water, while Customs Director General Chulananda Perera has received orders to initiate disciplinary action against them.

The country was deprived of over Rs. One billion due to the import of Toyota Prado TRJ 150 without taxes.

These vehicles were imported to the country towards the latter part of 2015 on false documentation.

Upon discovering that these due to the import of these vehicles the country would lose a huge sum in taxes, the Customs decided not to release them from customs.

Independent Committee!

The Finance Minister had instructed the Customs Director General to release the detained vehicles on the day the Good Governance regime completed a year in office on January 08, 2016.

However by then an investigation had already commenced regarding the vehicles, under the guidance of Superintendent of Sri Lanka Customs S.K.A.S. Senanayake.

On January 17, 2016, the All Ceylon Customs Service Union had informed President Maithripala Sirisena regarding this fraud.

In response to the complaint made to the President the Union representatives were invited for a discussion by the President.

The appointment given for the discussion with the President was for March 09, 2016.

Subsequent to the talks held with the President, an independent committee was established to investigate this fraud.

Committee Negated:

After the customs officers who exposed the fraudulent vehicle import deal had given evidence before the established committee, it was disbanded based on the instructions of a high ranking VIP, even before the committee report was brought out.

Under this backdrop, the Customs Director General had initiated disciplinary action against the relevant customs officers who exposed this fraudulent vehicle deal.

The reasons justifying the disciplinary action against these officers is that due to this information regarding the vehicles leaking out of the Customs Department, it had tarnished the image of the establishment.

The investigations have been handed over to Customs Director Saman de Silva, but according to Customs Unions, he is not a suitable person to conduct such an investigation.

Saman de Silva was remanded on allegations of trying to commit murder and is now out on bail.

In addition, his appointment as a Customs Director has so far not been endorsed by the Public Service Commission.

When he was promoted to his current position, Silva was in remand custody.

Den of Thieves:

However, the Customs Superintendent S. K. A. S. Senanayake who prevented the release of these vehicles has been summoned before Saman de Silva for a disciplinary inquiry on November 17.

The Finance Minister had previously instructed that Rs. 5 million each be charged for the release of this stock of vehicles.

However, what should have been charged for the release of these vehicles was Rs. 8 million per vehicle.

The Finance Minister had later instructed the Customs officials to charge Rs. 1.6 million per vehicle and release the vehicles from Customs charge.

However, the Customs official conducting the investigation and Director General had informed the relevant divisions not to charge even the Rs. 1.6 million and release the stock vehicles.

The Unions point out that the Finance Minister by such fraudulent deeds is turning the Customs Department into a den of thieves.

Although we made several attempts to contact the Finance Minister to get his comment regarding this incident, our efforts proved futile.

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