the backdrop of an election this country can ill afford, a
Lankan expatriate and operator of internet casinos has been
lobbying for political and diplomatic positions, enticing
both the new United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and the
United National Front (UNF) with multi million rupee
donations towards political campaigns.
exchange for either a place on the national list of the UPFA
or a confirmed appointment as roving ambassador for Sri
Lanka, Sabir Hussein is willing to finance the political
campaigns of prominent figures in the UPFA.
maintains his donations are made in goodwill only and he expects
no payback.But The Sunday Leader has found otherwise. Having
played his cards with the UNF and failed to score, Hussein is now
placing his bets on the new United People's Freedom Alliance and
President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
despite UPFA rhetoric, The Sunday Leader has found the alliance is
not averse to running its election campaign on the finances of a
is alleged that Sabir Hussein, operating internet casinos called
amongst others, "1luckygambler. com" and "casinoontop.com"
has already donated a sum of US $ 250,000 (approx. Rs. 25 million)
to members of the People's Alliance towards their election
when quizzed denied having done so, but admitted that he is
seriously considering making a significant donation to the UPFA.
He voiced deep admiration for President Chandrika Kumaratunga
maintaining the President's "vision in accomplishing an
agreement with the JVP is historical and an event which will no
doubt change the course of Sri Lanka's political destiny for the
said he has never met with the President but nevertheless
reiterated that he believes "she is a very sweet, honourable
and kind-hearted person."
told The Sunday Leader that he too wishes to play a part in
establishing a vision and a plan for Sri Lanka.
Hussein is president of 'Amazon Entertainment,' a company engaged
in the internet gaming industry. Amazon entertainment sites have
been featured on MSN, AltaVista, Excite and CBS Sportsline amongst
is considered to be in the forefront of the internet gaming
industry and boasts of a yearly betting revenue of approximately
US $ 500 million.
documents, Hussein had previously handed over to former Mass
Communication Minister, Imtiaz Bakeer Markar asking for the rights
to broadcast the SLBC/Rupavahini library of films and programming
to a worldwide audience by satellite, Hussein claims a turnover of
US $ 1.9 billion.
request is yet to be granted in this respect.Hussein however
maintains contradictory positions. He stated, despite the
documents available, that he never made any request to either
Bakeer Markar or the President for broadcast rights but said,
"I only gave him (Bakeer Markar) an idea to turn around
Rupavahini into a profitable institution."
at S. Thomas College Mount Lavinia, Hussein is the son of the
prominent race horse trainer, Sheriff Mehdi Hussein.Excerpts from
Hussein's Curriculum Vitae state that as president of the Amazon
Group of Companies, Hussein is the largest advertiser on MSN.com
with advertising running into millions of dollars per annum.
personally confirmed this aspect to The Sunday Leader - boasting
he is indeed one of the largest advertiser's on MSN.com, adding
further that his business repute worldwide he believes fully
qualifies him to be nominated to the post of ambassador
denied having made any requests from President Kumaratunga to be
nominated as roving ambassador for Sri Lanka. He also denied
requesting from the President that he be placed in the PA national
list in exchange for funding its present election campaign.
is reliably learnt that Hussein has met with heavyweights in the
PA in his bid to ensure his requests are granted in the event the
UPFA wins the April 2 election.
in fact told The Sunday Leader that he is more than convinced the
UPFA is set to take over the reigns of power, and admitted he
would like to financially back the UPFA.
having met with the President, Hussein also refuted claims that he
met PA strongmen, Mangala Samaraweera, Anuruddha Ratwatte and
however confirmed that Hussein has indeed met with PA heavyweights
at the Trans Asia Hotel where he stays when visiting Sri Lanka.
Hussein is domiciled in Sweden and married to a Swedish national.
left Sri Lanka at the age of 19, it is alleged that Hussein before
his departure was arrested by Sri Lanka Customs at the
Bandaranaike International Airport for attempting to smuggle a
large amount of foreign exchange out of the country.Hussein
strongly denied this allegation maintaining it is an attempt by
his foes to character assassinate him.
left Sri Lanka initially bound for the UK after which he moved to
Sweden where he married and entered the gaming industry. He
operates some of the most popular and biggest internet casinos
featuring favourite casino games like casino blackjack, casino
roulette and casino slots.
of the gaming sites he runs "1lucky gambler" is a
one-stop gaming site where visitors can access 30 casino games,
free Java-based games and an extensive sportsbook. The gaming is
made available via Starnet software.
boasts that 1lucky gambler and Sportsbook were the first casinos
to advertise on MSN.com.
web page on 1lucky gambler states that for "additional
information and other offerings" to contact: Sabir Hussein,
CEO of Amazon Entertainment Ltd.
the run up to the 2001 general election Hussein met with Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.He was introduced to the Premier by
Tertiary Education Minister Kabir Hashim and soon made a donation
of an estimated Rs. 5 million towards the UNP's election campaign.
confirmed he had indeed donated monies towards the UNP's election
campaign in 2001 but refused to say how much, only stating,
"it was in excess of Rs. 10 million." Hussein maintains
that he never sought any pay back from the UNP.
government source denied Hussein had donated monies in excess of
Rs. 10 million towards the UNP's election campaign in 2001.
sources in government confirmed that Hussein did indeed make a
request from Ranil Wickremesinghe to be granted a casino licence
that would allow him exclusivity in the casino industry in
Wickremesinghe had maintained he could not do - given the many
other operators already in existence. Instead, Hussein was told he
could be given such exclusivity in Bentota and that the Premier
would grant just the one casino licence to him.But Hussein was not
later changed his request. He told the Premier he wished to be
appointed as a roving ambassador for Sri Lanka. The Premier would
have none of it.
to Hussein, he claims that the post of roving ambassador was
"offered" to him by the UNF. Asked what qualifications
he possess to hold such a post he replied, "I have only to
pick up the telephone and I can speak with any top business
magnate in the world. Isn't that a worthwhile qualification for
the UNP's election to office in December 2001, Hussein met again
with Wickremesinghe and on several occasions in the presence also
of UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema.His request at each meeting
apparently remained the same - to be named as a roving ambassador.
senior spokesman for the UNF confirmed that Hussein repeatedly
requested the government to appoint him as a roving ambassador for
Sri Lanka. He said this was one among many requests Hussein made
from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. "But we cannot just
nominate people like that - all because they have made a donation
towards a campaign fund," he said requesting anonymity.
January 23, 2002, Hussein wrote to Wickremesinghe referring to a
"last meeting" and requesting the Prime Minister to
grant an audience with owners of a leading Saudi Arabian company
who were interested in making inward investments in Sri Lanka.
when asked by The Sunday Leader denied he ever wrote to
Wickremesinghe. He claimed the letter is a forgery. It is however
on an "Amazon Entertainment Ltd," letterhead, stating in
print that it is from the office of the chairman, Amazon Lanka
Limited and an email address given as: "firstname.lastname@example.org"
told The Sunday Leader that among 10 email addresses he uses we
could contact him on "email@example.com"
meanwhile at one stage had apparently been told by the UNF that
the government had put his name up for approval from the President
but that Kumaratunga had refused to sanction his appointment as
truth is the UNF never put up his name - more than convinced
Hussein did not qualify.
uncomfortable saga with the UNF ended when "Faris Uvais,"
a close associate of M. L. M. Athaullah of the rebel faction
within the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, together with Azmin Marikkar,
a former loyalist of Rauf Hakeem introduced Sabir Hussein to the
admitted to The Sunday Leader that he is "very
disillusioned" with the UNF. Asked why, he would only say,
they reneged on promises they made to him.
Hussein's request, in exchange for the monies he has donated, be
it to the UNF or the PA - has remained the same.To be appointed as
ambassador plenipotentiary or roving ambassador for Sri Lanka.
Hussein, for the moment is a man in waiting - more than convinced
that this time around he is backing the right horse. He in fact
told The Sunday Leader, "I have never yet backed the wrong
then, it is party time at the Trans Asia Hotel. Hosted by Hussein,
alliance big wigs are feasting on the spoils of Hussein's pickings
from the gambling industry and have been seen on more than one
occasion partying with the casino king.
Hussein professes deep respect for PA strongmen
with candour to The Sunday Leader, Sabir Hussein confessed he
"has a lot of regard and respect for Mangala Samaraweera and
if such respect extends to Anuruddha Ratwatte as well, he replied
"I have no comment." Commenting on the recent alliance
between the SLFP and the JVP he said, "I think the JVP is
very sincere this time."
regard to his support for the UPFA he said, "I am considering
supporting the PA in a very big way because I feel personally that
the President will do a better job."
about the possibility of him helping finance the election campaign
of the UPFA he responded saying, "Yes of course I am
seriously considering making a donation because I think the
President will do a better job in the peace process.Yes, the
possibilities are that I will indeed help finance their
refused to say how much he intends donating to the UPFA.