Avant Garde boss paid Rs 3.1 bn to govt in 3 yrs, claim lawyers
Posted on January 17th, 2016

 

by Shamindra Ferdinando Courtesy The Island

The Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resource and Privileges (PRECIFAC) has been informed that Avant Garde Maritime Services (AGMS) paid Rs. 3.1 bn to the government of Sri Lanka during 2012-2014 period.

The AGMS provided security to foreign vessels and allied services.

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President Maithripala Sirisena last year intervened to hand over the operation to the Navy against the backdrop of accusations that the AGMS had exploited its close relationship with the previous government to make profits at the expense of the national economy.

President’s Counsel Kuvera de Zoysa and attorney-at-law Nishan Premathiratne on behalf of AGMS on Thursday (Jan. 14) submitted to PRECIFAC documentary evidence in respect of detailed payments made to the Navy as well as Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited (RALL) from Oct. 2012 to Dec. 2014.

The submissions were made against the backdrop of the PRECIFAC recording statements from former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and retired Army Commando Major Nissanka Senadhipathi regarding certain alleged irregular arrangements between the Defence Ministry managed RALL and AGMS.

The submissions made by Major Senadhipathi’s legal team went unchallenged at the PRECIFAC.

The AGMS legal team also cross examined Director General naval Operations Rear Admiral Wattewa for four hours on Jan. 14. the legal team examined submissions made by Navy Headquarters pertaining to revenue from the Navy operation prior to the AGMS setting up Galle floating armoury in Oct. 2012.

The AGMS hired a tug owned by Sri Lanka Shipping Company Limited.

The PRECIFAC was informed of the Navy and RALL receiving Rs 1.6 bn and Rs 1.5 bn, respectively between Oct. 2012 to Dec. 2014.

Major Senadhipathi’s legal team also submitted reports in respect of operations undertaken by AGMS/RALL compared to the Navy. The legal team pointed out that the AGMS/RALL had handled about 800 operations per month whereas the Navy handled approximately 600.

Former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajakasa’s legal team, too, cross examined Rear Admiral Wattewa during the proceedings. The inquiry will resume on Jan. 21.

Navy headquarters recently declared that it had received an income of Rs 220 million during the period from Nov. 13 to Dec. 13, 2015 after taking over operations from the AGMS.

Providing security to merchant ships carrying weapons, ammunition and related equipment and for the smooth functioning of on board security to vessels plying to and from High Risk Areas were some of the operations carried out by the Navy since the takeover.

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