Excise Commissioner Kapila Kumarasinghe, speaking to The Morning, said that permission was granted as per several requests made by the company to operate.
The licence of the liquor distillery W.M. Mendis & Co. Ltd., had been suspended by the Excise Department for the non-payment of taxes since January 2018.
Kumarasinghe added that the company has agreed to settle the tax arrears by way of instalment payments, noting that the Government would pay attention to the making of the payments.
It has been reported that the company has evaded tax payments to the tune of Rs. 580 million for December 2017. The company had an outstanding payment of Rs. 720 million; however, part of the amount had been settled before the licence was revoked.
Arjun Aloysius gained control of W.M. Mendis in 2011 when his company Perpetual Capital Ltd. acquired a controlling stake in the popular liquor producer for reportedly over Rs. 1 billion. It was at the time the most significant acquisition made by Aloysius.
Aloysius is the central figure in the so-called “2015 Bond Scam”, for which he spent nearly a year in remand custody, and is the owner of primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries. He is the son-in-law of former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran.
When Aloysius was arrested in February 2018, in April 2018 he signed an agreement giving over the management of W.M. Mendis to another party for a 10-year period. However, he was released on bail in January 2019.
Established in the 1960s, W.M. Mendis & Co. Ltd. is one of the oldest local liquor manufacturers in the country. It is one of the four players in the alcohol industry, which is led by the Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka and also includes Rockland Distilleries and IDL.
Meanwhile, the Working People’s Power Movement expressed its displeasure about the decision of the Excise Department, alleging that it is unfortunate that at a time when the country is in a dire economic state and is facing a grave financial crisis, the heads of the Finance Ministry are handing over such a licence to “bank robbers and tax evaders”.