“Sugar fraud” may cost Sri Lanka Rs 11 billion in tax revenue: SJB
ECONOMYNEXT – A controversial “sugar fraud” carried out by well-connected importers may cost Sri Lanka Rs 11 billion in tax revenue, the Samagi Tharuna Balavegaya (STB), the youth wing of Sri Lanka’s main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said.
The STB lodged a complaint with the Bribery Commission today on the alleged fraud, which the group said was carried out after Sri Lanka slashed the import tax on sugar from Rs 50 a kilogram to 25 cents on October 23 last year.
STB Chairman Mayantha Dissanayake filing the complaint today claimed that approximately 75,000 metric tons of sugar has been imported to the country by a powerful businessman after the import tax on sugar was reduced. Several other consignments of sugar are still arriving, he said.
Dissanayake said that even after the reduction of taxes, the sugar prices remained high.
“The state-owned Sathosa purchased sugar at higher prices and sold to the public at Rs 85 per kilogram. On the surface, we can see a suspicious deal behind the sudden influx of sugar into the country after the reduction of taxes. We suspect that some wheeler-dealers affiliated with the government derived large profits from this deal,” he said.
He further explained that this alleged fraud has a twofold impact – on the government and public.
According to STB’s calculations, the fraud deprived the country of a Rs 11 billion tax revenue while the consumers were forced to buy a basic commodity at a higher price. The party has urged the commission to investigate a former Sathosa chairman’s connection to a director of Pyramid Wilmar, a joint venture between Pyramid Oil Mills and Wilmar International Limited.
“When we raised the matter in Parliament, no member of the ruling party came out with a proper answer,” he added.
Dissanayake said this alleged fraud is similar to the treasury bond scam.
“At least President Sirisena appointed a Presidential Commission to investigate the scam and the legal proceedings were initiated based on the report. We hope President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has the backbone to investigate the corruption allegation faced by his own officials and supporters,” he said.
Questions about the alleged sugar fraud was already raised by JVP in December 2020. (Colombo/Feb01/2021)