Sri Lanka Prosecutors Probing Deleted Emails From Captain of Ship That Sank With 25 Tons of Acid
Posted on June 8th, 2021

BY  Courtesy The Newsweek

State prosecutors in Sri Lanka‘s Colombo Magistrate’s Court on Monday accused the operators of the ship that caught fire with 25 tons of acid onboard of a cover-up. The Deputy Solicitor General alleged that Sea Consortium Lanka, the local agent for the ship, deleted several emails exchanged with the vessel’s captain that were characterized as important to the investigations.

The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl cargo ship caught fire on May 20 and burned for 13 days while anchored in the waters near Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. As a result, tons of chemicals spilled into the Indian Ocean. Potentially toxic debris and plastic pollutants also washed ashore the nearby beaches in what’s been called one of the worst ecological disasters to hit the island nation.

Authorities are still bracing for a potentially larger problem. The International Maritime Operation is monitoring the stranded ship in case the 278 metric tons of bunker oil and 50 metric tons of gasoline aboard leak into the ocean.

SS Pearl
Smoke billows from the Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl as another vessel unsuccessfully attempts to tow it away from the coast of Colombo on June 2, 2021.GETTY

When the case was taken up before a Colombo magistrate on Monday, Deputy Solicitor General Madhawa Tennakoon—appearing on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)—sought an order naming seven individuals as suspects of the case and to issue notices ordering them to appear before the court. One individual named was the managing director of Sea Consortium Lanka.

President’s Counsel Sarath Jayamanne, who represented the cargo ship’s chief engineer and the first assistant engineer (whose names were also among those named by the Deputy Solicitor General as suspects) appealed the order. He said the Magistrate’s Court had no jurisdiction to hear the case, and that any proceedings should be carried out by the country’s High Court.

The magistrate sided with the President’s Counsel and dismissed the request, stating the Magistrate’s Court does not have the jurisdiction to issue notices to the said individuals. The magistrate, however, did accept a request made by the CID to order the Navy to protect the vessel’s submerged wreckage.READ MORE

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Perhaps the biggest development from the court hearings came when Deputy Solicitor General Tennakoon said Sea Consortium Lanka had deleted several emails exchanged with the X-Press Pearl’s captain. The magistrate called for the original emails to be recovered and handed over to the CID.

Tennakoon also said probes have found that the acid leak onboard the vessel that caused the fire was first reported on May 10. Tennakoon alleged the captain and the crew were aware of the situation and gave false information in order to enter Sri Lankan waters. He also claimed that Sea Consortium Lanka informed the Colombo Harbor Master of a fire onboard the vessel after it had already entered Sri Lankan waters and was awaiting permission to anchor.

President’s Counsel Jayamanne denied the allegations that the crew concealed the truth about the acid leak when the vessel entered Sri Lankan waters.

The case is scheduled to resume on June 15.

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