By Lakmal Sooriyagoda
Two accused including an Assistant Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) were imprisoned in connection with the South Asia’s largest VAT scam by a Colombo Court yesterday.
In this case 14 accused were indicted on 34 charges including misappropriation of public funds amounting to Rs. 3.9 billion belonging to the Inland Revenue Department before the Colombo High Court.
The offences were said to have been committed between 15 November 2002 and 15 December 2004.
Colombo High Court Judge Kumuduni Wickremasinghe sentenced the second accused, Ananda Ambepitiya – an Assistant Commissioner of the IRD – to a 14-month term of rigorous imprisonment when he pleaded guilty to the first count. The High Court Judge further ordered him to pay a fine of Rs. 500,000. The remaining charges levelled against the accused were withdrawn by the Attorney General.
The prosecutors alleged that the Assistant Commissioner had granted permission to refund VAT without conducting a field inquiry and thereby he had neglected his duties as a Government officer.
Meanwhile, the 11th accused, Salawudeen Mohamed Ashraff, a businessman, was ordered to pay a fine of Rs. 60 million with a two-year rigorous imprisonment term for fraudulently receiving Rs. 16.5 million. The High Court Judge warned that the property belonging to the accused could be confiscated if he unable to pay the fine.
Defence counsel submitted in Court the two accused who were allegedly involved in the fraud case had been in remand custody for seven years and this fact be considered sentencing them by Court.
Meanwhile, the Court ordered that a property belonging to the 10th accused, Selliah Subramaniam, who had been sentenced earlier, be confiscated since he was unable to pay the Rs. 100 million fine imposed by the Court.
On the previous occasion, Subramaniam was sentenced to 13 months of rigorous imprisonment with a Rs. 100 million fine imposed for receiving Rs. 646 million as VAT refunds from the Inland Revenue Department.
The 13th accused, Rizwin alias Abdul Kareem, was sentenced to one year’s rigorous imprisonment and imposed a Rs. 1 million fine for fraudulently receiving Rs. 188 million as VAT refunds. The 14th accused Shabdeen Abdulla was sentenced to eight months’ rigorous imprisonment with a Rs. 50,000 fine for making false documents to facilitate the fraud.
The trial is being heard in the absence of some of the accused – Rasheed Mohamed Murshida, Bakeer Mohamed Riyaz, Mohamed Zubair Fawzil Amami, M. Ameer Irshad, N.A. Mohamed Nasmi, Mohamed Kamil Kuthubdeen and Abdul Mohamed Saafi – who have left the country.
The case was taken up with A. Gunasiri de Soyza Jayatillake, Ananda Wickremesinghe Ambepitiya, Sinnaiah Subramaniiyam, Saludeen Mohamed Ashraff, Mohamed Ismail Riswin and Sahabdeen Abdullah who were present in court. The AG has listed 251 as witnesses. Further trial in respect of the first and rest of accused was postponed for 16 May.
Deputy Solicitor General Buvaneka Aluvihare appeared for the prosecution. President’s Counsel Anil de Silva with Shanaka Ranasinghe PC appeared for the accused.