Mystery deepens over Amerasian Corporation partner Via Capital: SriLankan Airlines probe
ECONOMYNEXT – State-run SriLankan Airlines had signed a deal to pay 50.7 million rupees to a company named Via Capital which had no prior experience, to vet a business plan, with the signatory not having a name, designation or company seal, a commission of inquiry heard.
Then Chairman of SriLankan Airlines Nishantha Wickremesinghe and ex-Company Secretary Mildred Peries had signed the agreement with Via Capital, Sri Lankan Airlines Head of Finance Management Yasantha Dissanayake told a commission of inquiry probing state-run SriLankan Airlines and the now defunct budget carrier Mihin Lanka.
Via Capital was introduced by a company called Amerasian Corporation, whose consultancy services SriLankan had been pressured by the Ministry of Shipping and Aviation and the Treasury to accept, the commission had earlier heard.
Dissanayake said there was only a signature on the agreement on behalf of Via Capital, without the agreement stating who had signed, the individual’s title, and the company registration number or a company seal or common seal through which the consultancy could be identified.
Prior communication between SriLankan and Via Capital had taken place electronically, and it had been introduced by the Amerasian Corporation through an unsolicited e-mail proposal, Dissanayake said.
Senior Deputy Solicitor General Niel Unamboowe questioned whether Sri Lankan Airlines had signed a deal with a fake company.
Dissanayake said he could not say based on available documents.
He said that based on evidence so far submitted, SriLankan cannot prove whether someone of authority at Via Capital had signed the agreement.
He said he would have to check whether the signature on the agreement belonged to Maryanne Fike, who was listed as Via Capital Chief Executive, by comparing it with past correspondence.
Via Capital had no prior experience at all, Dissanayake said.
Its executives had submitted references of past experience, he said.
However, upon questioning, he admitted none of their past references could be verified.
In previous testimony he had said that Via Capital had failed the prior experience qualification, but had been chosen out of 12 consultancies to vet the business plan, formulated by an ex-employee for just 750,000 rupees.
Dissanayake had said that then Public Enterprise Department Director General Suren Batagoda, ex-Ports and Aviation Ministry Secretary Ranjith de Silva and Nishantha Wickramasinghe had corresponded and instructed to give Amerasian Corporation’s partner Via Capital information on SriLankan.
He had said that the board appointed five-member committee responsible for choosing the consultancy had only two signatures on the decision to select Via Capital, while a majority decision was required.
Although the board had approved the decision, a draft of the agreement had not been submitted to the board for approval as required, he had said.
Dissanayake had said that there were little differences between the original plan and the reviewed business plan submitted by Via Capital.
The original business plan called for a fleet of 24 aircraft and the reviewed plan called for 23 aircraft, he had said.
However, the original plan needed only 300 million dollars in capital infusion, compared to 510 million dollars in Via Capital’s review Dissanayake had said.
There was a small difference in the annual flight frequencies between the two plans, Dissanayake had said.
He had said the original plan called for seven new routes, while the Via Capital plan called for only five, as two of the routes in the first plan had already begun.
Dissanayake had said then Chief Executive Kapila Chandrasena had told the SriLankan board that there was little difference between the two plans.
According to the Via Capital reviewed business plan, the cabinet had decided to allocate 500 million dollars to SriLankan, Dissanayake said. (Colombo/Sept27/2018)