Sunday, September 20, 2009

SRI LANKA: Hizbullahs’ great rip off

By Frederica Jansz
The Sunday Leader last week published an article on multi million rupee loans given to four companies which operated under the names of M/s. Serendib Manufacturers Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., M/s. Happy Day Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., Green Flowers MFG (Pvt) Ltd., and M/s. Serendib Clothing Lanka (Pvt) Ltd.
The monies to the tune of Rs. 67.5 million were all released by Ceylinco Profit Sharing Investment Corporation Ltd., on guarantees given by Hizbullah in his position then as Chairman, Airport and Aviation Services Ltd. — finally ending in July 2007, to Mrs. Sithy Rameeza Sahabdeen, wife of M. L. A. M. Hizbullah Minister for Health, Sports and IT Education in the Eastern Provincial Council.
Hizbullah admitted that all four companies of which his wife served as Chairperson “collapsed” and ceased to be functional by 2006. Asked what happened to the Rs. 67.5 million “borrowed” from Ceylinco Profit Sharing he replied “it was all lost.” Asked if he had any intention of paying the monies back he said “No. Why should I? This was not my responsibility.”
Companies not operative
This week we have proof that in April 2007, by which time Hizbullah himself admits the said companies were no longer operative two of the companies made another multi million rupee claim to Amana Takaful Insurance Ltd., alleging over Rs.100 million worth of machinery and goods had been destroyed in a fire.
When we again spoke with Hizbullah he reiterated that the companies were indeed non functional at the time of the fire. He said police investigations into the cause of the fire found that some “outsiders” may have been responsible.
Asked to be more specific, Hizbullah explained that while the factories had been in operation two or three employees had on “two or three occasions” been caught stealing and had been apprehended and remanded. He asserted however that he could not be certain if it were indeed these disgruntled elements who were responsible for the fire.
Utility bills unpaid
The Sunday Leader has since found out that Minister Hisbullah’s wife rented the Paddy Marketing Board Stores at Meetotamulla to house his factories and at the time the companies stopped operating, rents, electricity dues and water bills have remained unpaid.
These factories housed machinery to manufacture electric kettles and door closers in partnership with a Korean group. In an interesting aside on April 23, 2007 the machinery installed in these premises belonging to the Paddy Marketing Board caught fire.
The fire was restricted to the immediate surroundings of the machinery and no damage of any consequence was caused to the buildings. Note that the factory had stopped operating since May 2006 and the Korean partners had left by then.
Claim refused
We reliably learn that M/s. Serendib Manufacturers Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., M/s. Happy Day Lanka (Pvt ) Ltd., have together made a claim from Amana Takaful amounting to some Rs. 125 million.
Amana Takaful refused to meet the claim asserting that an investigation by them found that the Hizbullahs had failed to disclose at the time of making the claim the factories situated next door to each other at Meetotamulla were non functional.
Now, Minister Hizbullah being a very unfortunate man when it comes to catastrophe is an understate-ment. He also operated a garment factory in Valachchenai (the only garment factory in the area) upto 2004. This factory was situated near the Valachchenai Police Station. This factory too was closed down and yes, no prizes for guessing what happened next. Fire. This claim however was met by the insurance company.
Minister Hizbullah though filing action in the Commercial High Court has not followed up by attending court, citing elections and being generally busy serving the people so that case keeps getting postponed.

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