US$250 million deposited to ‘Chamara Gunasekara’ over X-Press Pearl disaster!
Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe’s controversial statement in the Parliament on April 25 that US dollars 250 million has been deposited to an account in connection with the X-Press Pearl disaster has created much chaos and confusion with no trace of receiver of the said massive sum. Minister Rajapakshe also said that a lawsuit had been filed on April 25 for the massive damage caused to Sri Lanka’s sea area by the X-Press Pearl ship.The Minister said that the sum of money had been deposited to an account in a UK bank and the name of the alleged account holder is revealed as Chamara Gunasekara. However days have gone by but no traces of any Gunasekara has been revealed and worst of all examinations and investigations have so far given indication that there is no such person in the UK and giving a conclusion that the whole episode is only a chapter of fake drama.
On April 25, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe mentioned the name Chamara Gunasekara in Parliament as the person who is said to have received the bribe. The Minister also disclosed many details such as Gunasekara’s account number and the money transfer number. Rajapakshe informed Parliament that he had reported this to the Inspector General of Police, and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to investigate. However the Justice Minister cleared his hands on the information and severe allegation stating that his statement was based only on unconfirmed information and that it was not yet considered as evidence.
Days have gone by but no traces of any Gunasekara has been revealed and worse of all examinations and investigations have so far given indication that there is no such person in the UK
However, the CID had told media that it was not able to find any information about Chamara Gunasekara until April 26. Moreover, reports indicated that no information had been found about the Bank in England where the money was reportedly deposited, or the account in question. It was also revealed through the media that the CID was seeking expert assistance from the Central Bank to locate information about the bank and the controversial account. Investigating officers suspect that those involved in the incident are using various tactics to mislead the country, according to media reports.
The Justice Minister’s controversial statement led many enthusiasts including environmental activists and those who want to know the truth about the so called Gunasekara, in case if found, would unravel the whole mystery of X-Press Pearl.
An attempt to fabricate a story about a non-existent person and divert attention?- Environmentalists
Environmental activist Nayanaka Ranwella stated that, even after consulting reliable people who have lived in England for 20-30 years, he could not find anyone by the name of Chamara Gunasekara. Ranwella said that there was no listing of a person by that name among the names of Sri Lankans and social service professionals residing in England. He added that the bank where the bribe money is alleged to have been deposited was a small bank located in England, and it would be impossible to carry out such a huge transaction without complying with the country’s laws when there is no one to receive the sum. Ranwella said that some individuals in the Sri Lankan government might be trying to fabricate a story about a non-existent person named Chamara Gunasekara receiving a bribe, and then claim that no such person exists. He expressed uncertainty about whether there are plans to retract allegations of bribery against individuals who may have profited from the damage caused by the X-Press Pearl ship. He further stated that, given all these stories, he has reasonable doubts.
Ranwella raised concerns over the fact that the observation team was not allowed to access the area where the ship caught fire, gives rise to suspicions that a bribe was taken. The
Environmental activist Nayanaka Ranwella
transfer of 250 million dollars should involve a business account, as per the laws of a country like England. Thus, it is unlikely that such a transaction could take place outside the purview of the law in England. Ranwella also alleged that although the bank account mentioned by the Justice Minister may be held in a small bank in England, it has been revealed that there is no such person named Chamara Gunasekara residing there.
On April 25, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe mentioned the name Chamara Gunasekara in Parliament as the person who is said to have received the bribe. The Minister also disclosed many details such as Gunasekara’s account number and the money transfer number
Environmentalists charged that many people have profited from the X-Press Pearl ship disaster. According to Ranwella, from installing machines to removing the plastic pellets that washed up on the shore from the sunken ship and up until now attempts are made only to make money out of the worst ever man-made marine disaster in Sri Lankan sea. Additionally, he alleged that some members of the committee appointed to investigate the damage caused due to the ship carrying chemical substances and calculate the compensation had not performed their duties properly. He also said that the place where the chemical substances were recovered from the ship were stored in the Wattala area and was not properly inspected.
Tender to remove the ship given to Chinese company with the blessings of a politician
An official from Sri Lanka Ports Authority who wanted to remain anonymous confirmed that six companies including a Sri Lankan company submitted tenders for the scrapping of the X-Press Pearl ship and removing the debris. At the outset, the tender of the Sri Lankan company had been rejected claiming its inability to carry out the said operation. Ultimately, a Chinese company was awarded the tender for scrapping the ship, reportedly based on the recommendation of a high-ranking politician. The Chinese company later subcontracted the work to three other organizations, according to the spokesperson.
The total estimated compensation for the environmental damage caused by the X-Press Pearl ship is USD 6.4 billion. However, according to the information another party has allegedly made a deal with the shipping company to obtain only USD 4 billion as compensation. Some of the officials have agreed to the deal. However according to reports, Sri Lanka will only receive USD 1 billion as total compensation, with another US one billion going to those who agreed to the deal. The remaining USD 2 billion is expected to be kept by the shipping company and that is how the deal has been entered into, according to our sources from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. Additionally, there are reports that an individual who allegedly received bribes from the ship is now planning to start a business in Sri Lanka.
Investigating officers suspect that those involved in the incident are using various tactics to mislead the country, according to media reports.
Former Chairman of the Maritime Environment Protection Authority, Darshani Lahadapura, was asked whether any irregularities took place when the reports prepared to claim compensation for the environmental damage caused by the X-Press Pearl ship disaster. She said that the NARA Institute and other committee members were allowed to inspect the ship during the assessment to claim compensation. However they were not allowed to reach the ship claiming safety concerns. “We also realised the risk involved,” Ms. Lahadapura, ex-MEPA chairman said. She also said that the committee responsible for assessing the compensation had been allowed to inspect all the hazardous materials that had been piled up in the Wattala area.
“The legal case to demanding compensation was filed through the Attorney General’s Department. The case was filed against a company that owns the ship and the company that operated it (P&I Club) and the captain of the ship. We only prepared the environmental report. This compensation is for the damage caused. The compensation for the environmental damage can be calculated for years, and this is the biggest damage caused to a sea area by plastic pellets. This case is one of the most significant cases in the world and the decision would go down in history.” Additionally, she said that the case would be a precedent for future similar cases.
We reached out to Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe to inquire whether he had initiated legal action to claim compensation from the X-Press Pearl. But he was unreachable as he was attending parliament.
Environmental activist Nayanaka Ranwella said that some individuals in the Sri Lankan government might be trying to fabricate a story about a non-existent person named Chamara Gunasekara receiving a bribe, and then claim that no such person exists
However, in a recent parliamentary session, the minister said that he would be filing a lawsuit to seek compensation for damages caused by the ship. During this session, the minister also raised concerns about an act of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on April 4 prior to the filing of the lawsuit. According to the minister, officials from the Attorney General’s Department had been summoned to discuss the case before it was filed. A group including Catholic priests were also invited to discuss the impact of the X-Press Pearl incident caused on the fishing community. In addition to this group, a group of lawyers representing the ship’s owner and insurance company were also present. Rajapakshe stated that the Sectoral Oversight Committee had inquired with the officials of the Attorney General’s Department about how the case was filed in the presence of defense lawyers. The Minister of Justice said in Parliament that such a mistake could be detrimental to Sri Lanka’s case and that if the compensation amount is lost as a result, the Sectoral Oversight Committee would be held accountable for it.
Our attempts to contact MP Ajith Mannapperuma, Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee failed. However in Parliament, Mannapperuma made the following statement regarding the issue:
“I see the issue differently as the Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee. It is different from your point of view. You have your own image and I have my own. I will focus on saving my reputation and moving forward. During our committee meeting, we democratically consulted with representatives from the shipping company and insurance company, but the lawyers from the Attorney General’s Department or the monitoring committee were not questioned while they were present. Our committee meeting started only after the representatives from the shipping company and insurance company had left,” he added.