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Your tax rupees at work:How the VAT fraudsters live it up


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By Faraz Shauketaly 

As Sri Lanka continues to pay huge amounts in interest due to having to borrow money for its development work, the chief culprit in the massive VAT scam Kamil Kuthubdeen and his consort, Hamza, are living it up in Dubai, the glittering Gulf emirate.  This is the man on the run from Sri Lanka in connection with the VAT fraud. His consort is none other than Hamza, the one time private secretary to Imtiaz Bakeer Markar, former Minister of Mass Communication under the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration.

Kamil Kuthubdeen and his band of thieves, defrauded the Sri Lanka government of a staggering Rs. 8 billion — or so it is reliably estimated and reported. Yet, they roam the world, in search of opportunities that will sustain their ill-gotten wealth. Some sources allege their tentacles stretch to overt money laundering. Recently they withdrew from a transaction in Africa when it became apparent that the Togo businessmen were trying to pull a scam on Kuthubdeen.

Kamil Kuthubdeen is said to be in control of not one but two hotels in Dubai. The Grand Moov and the K-Port Inn are operated by Global Business Trust LLC, a UAE company said to be controlled by Kamil Kuthubdeen.

Passport expired

It is of the most significant interest that Kamil Kuthubdeen’s Sri Lankan passport has now officially expired. Yet we have reports that Kuthubdeen has recently travelled out of the UAE to Togo and Hong Kong.

In this context we asked our sources at the Immigration Department to confirm the status. They confirmed that the passport that has been issued, is now out of date and records in Colombo do not indicate that the passport has been renewed.

We posed the question whether it was possible for the Embassy in the UAE or Dubai to extend the validity without informing Colombo. The response was “all possibilities exist.” It is not the proper method of course, but a ‘possibility.’

The irony of this is not lost on us: here is a man on the run from the law in Sri Lanka yet a Sri Lanka mission in the area, may have surreptitiously  extended his passport. What they ought to have done is to have cancelled his passport and issued him an emergency travel document valid for a one-way direct flight to Colombo only.

Exited Sri Lanka

Popular folklore has it that Kuthubdeen exited Sri Lanka by paying for a boat to take him to India, then on to Oman before ending up “home” in Dubai. Hamza on the other hand is said to have made his exit with a bit more panache: his exit was facilitated via Katunayake.

Kuthubdeen is fond of saying that he has “sorted” the VAT troubles. It can be sorted if he returns to this country and answers questions about a fraud that investigators say he is the king pin. The bulk of the money  was stolen from the republic through nothing cleverer than a straightforward fraud.

One did not need to be an “astute” businessman — this was pure and simply fraud. With the cohorts who are behind bars now the perpetrators connived and perpetrated a massive fraud on the republic.

One of the con-team, was reported to have visited Australia no less than 14 times in a single year! He was no businessman either: he was a senior official at the VAT department — signifying he was a public official who stuck two fingers up at Article 28 (D) of the Constitution of his employer — the State of Sri Lanka.

“Shocked conscience”

If the Supreme Court no less suffered from a “shocked conscience” by the actions of P.B. Jayasundera, the disgraced former Treasury Secretary, then we can only begin to speculate what a Judge would have to say about the VAT fraudsters.  Some of the suspects have been in prison for nearly two and a half years — they will probably be sentenced to far greater time once the trial is concluded and rightly so, as a day less,  is to be lenient in the extreme.

Kamil Kuthubdeen wormed his way into prominence thanks to his wife’s connection to Imtiaz Bakeer Markar, who was the Minister of Mass Communications at the time. By the time Kuthubdeen was “done” he left behind a wake of disasters which affected both family, friends and so-called partners.

As Kuthubdeen celebrated his birthday, away from the Colombo Remand Prison, in the glitzy capital of the Gulf, Dubai, at a hotel he is thought to control (The Grand Moov), the analogy that President Mahinda Rajapakse drew at a cabinet meeting nearly three years ago is difficult to cast aside: that with the money that was plundered from the state, the Hambantota Port could have been paid for.

We wonder if the President knows of the role that his Treasury Secretary, the disgraced P.B. Jayasundera, played in the VAT fraud scam. Because if the President was aware, and especially aware of what his Auditor General had to say about his Treasury Secretary (he said his job and his responsibilities were not “discharged properly”) there is no way that the President would entertain P.B. Jayasundera within 100 yards of the Treasury, which to P.B. Jayasundera — knowing our President is a rugby fan — had become the touchline.

(faraz@thesundayleader.lk)


 
 
 
 

 

 


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