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JO accuses Ravi K of involvement in Vehicle Lanka’s illegal business

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By Chamodi Gunawardana

The Joint Opposition (JO) yesterday challenged Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake to an open debate over the Vehicle Lanka Ltd. issue, which it claimed had led to a loss of Rs. 6.6 billion for the State.

JO MP Udaya Gammanpila alleged that Karunanayake had misled the Cabinet by granting approval for the import of Vehicle Lanka Ltd. vehicle spare parts by concealing the accurate nature of the business from the Cabinet.BUP_DFTDFT-6

According to Gammanpila, Vehicle Lanka Ltd. was importing vehicle spare parts from 1998 and it was assembling these parts to make new vehicles. Gammanpila said the Chairman of the company, Harsha Prabath Silva, used the support of Karunanayake to register his business as a vehicle assembling organisation.

“Vehicle Lanka is importing spare parts and assembling them locally, but he was trying to register his assembled vehicles as new vehicles by violating the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance. He is conducting a shady business by assembling used vehicles parts and selling them as brand new vehicles because he should have to pay the tax for importing vehicle parts and he did that to avoid the huge tax that applies to the importation of a new vehicle. His business is illegal,” he claimed.

Outlining the statistics of the loss which the Government has incurred due to Vehicle Lanka’s illicit imports, Gammanpila said the Government had lost roughly Rs. 6.6 billion to Rs. 25 billion due to these transactions.

“According to Customs regulations only a tax of Rs. 661,268 should be paid for one consignment of spare parts. When it comes to small vehicles below 1300 cc the tax is Rs. 3,575,000 per vehicle.  According to that, for every vehicle there was a loss of Rs. 2,913,732 and Vehicle Lanka has produced 2,500 vehicles so the total loss can be calculated to be between Rs. 6.6 billion and Rs. 25 billion. However, without knowing the exact engine power of those vehicles we can’t reveal an accurate figure for the loss,” he said.

Gammanpila said that when the owner of Vehicle Lanka started business at an assembly plant, Customs had raided it due to the illegal nature of the business. However, Silva lodged a writ petition in the Court of Appeal to dismiss the raid. Nevertheless, the court had ordered him to pay the total tax for imported vehicles for each consignment of spare parts.

Furthermore, the Commissioner of Motor Traffic refused to give approval to register the vehicles of that company as new vehicles since it was a violation of motor traffic laws. However, the owner had again lodged a case against the Motor Traffic Commissioner in the Supreme Court seeking permission to register his assembled vehicles as new vehicles. At the end of the hearing the Supreme Court granted permission to register only 2,500 vehicles under the Motor Traffic Ordinance.

Gammanpila said Karunanayake had included a special budget proposal in Budget 2016 which allowed Vehicle Lanka to register its assembled vehicles as new vehicles. Gammanpila said Karunanayake had also presented a Cabinet paper for the above purpose by concealing the Supreme Court verdict only to register 2,500 vehicles.

“Karunanayake has misled the Cabinet by hiding the exact nature of Vehicle Lanka’s business and he has to clarify why he added a special proposal which would be beneficial to a single businessman,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Sunday the Government Information Department said Customs released eight containers with used vehicle parts to its consignee, who is engaged in assembling vehicle parts, due to a decision made by the Cabinet on the basis of legal advice given by the Attorney General.

It said that the Cabinet decision was communicated to Sri Lanka Customs by the Secretary to the Treasury and not due to any demand by the Finance Minister as certain parties with vested interests were claiming in order to mislead the general public with the ulterior motive of tarnishing Karunanayake’s image.  

“A private company called Vehicle Lanka Ltd., which is engaged in the assembly of vehicles making use of used spare parts, had commenced its operation after the year 2005. Since then as they encountered numerous legal barriers they had filed over 20 court cases and FR applications in the Supreme Court. One such Fundamental Rights case filed in 2012 has been amicably settled with the Transport Ministry and as a result the company was given permission by the  then Commissioner of Motor Traffic to engage in vehicle assembling. As even this decision was meted out with barriers, the company had filed a case against the Commissioner of Motor Traffic too,” it added.

Then the Joint Opposition yesterday filed a complaint against Karunanayake at the Bribery Commission and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) regarding their concerns.

This was the second time the Joint Opposition lodged a complaint against Karunanayake after earlier going to the Bribery Commission outlining three separate incidents of corruption including one instance where they accused him of misappropriating State funds.

So far the Joint Opposition has filed complaints at the Bribery Commission and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Foreign Employment Minister Thalatha Athukorale, Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrama, Public Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim and Rural Economic Affairs Minister P. Harrison over their alleged corruption.


JO irked by inaction over corruption complaints

Joint Opposition MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said that the Yahapalana Government was delaying conducting investigations over their seven complaints of corruption.

He said that even though the Joint Opposition had lodged complaints with supporting evidence the Government was unable to launch primary investigations over those charges.

“Not even one of these corrupt individuals was summoned to the Bribery Commission or CID to record a statement regarding our accusations. We will be patient until the top ten list is complete. Whenever the list is completed we will take further steps in revealing the hidden corruption of the present Government,” he told.   


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