A sports ministry appointed inquiry committee while ruling former President Thilanga Sumathipala cannot hold office in any of the country’s registered national sports bodies given his family’s connection to betting and gaming industry, has recommended to initiate legal action against the former cricket heavyweight based on a report issued by the Anti-Corruption Unit of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
A three-member committee headed by the Director General of Sports Dhammika Muthugala and includes lawyers SD Piyadasa and Shiromi Ranawaka has reached this decision, having examine an anti-corruption report on Sumathipala’s alleged request for a bribe of US$ 100,000 to give the Sri Lanka television contract to World Tel in 1997.
According to details available, then the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka sold its TV rights to World Tel Inc. The owner of the company was late Mark Mascarenas.
“As there are evidences of a criminal offence, we would recommend to hand over the report to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to carry out further investigation and take necessary legal actions,” the seven-page report prepared on October 9 reads.
The report further says attributing to a report sent by the ICC Anti-Corruption head, Alex Marshall that a British bookmaker named Glyn Palmer--a close business associate of Sumathipala has spilled the beans to the ICC in a recent confession.
Palmer has been in Sumathipala’s payroll for number of years helping out Sumathipala in setting up the betting business in Sri Lanka--a clear evidence of Sumathipala’s direct involvement in the betting and gaming industry--the inquiry report states.
‘According to the report of the General Manager Anti-Corruption Unit of the ICC, Glyn Palmer-a British bookmaker has had business dealing with regard to the betting industry with Thilanaga Sumathipala.
The inquiry was conducted following a complaint from the Piliyandala Town Club which argued that Sumathipala’s presence in the Ex-Co violates Sports Law and the regulations enacted therein.
The new rule enacted in August this year ensures that anyone–or any member of his immediate family (being a spouse, parent, sibling, son or daughter or son-in-law or daughter-in-law)–who has an interest in “betting, gaming or wagering, or in a betting gaming or wagering organisation or is employed in the day to day operations of such organisation or organizations” is disqualified from holding office
Therefore, the committee has asked the minister of sports to take necessary actions to remove Sumathipala from the Sri Lanka Cricket Executive Committee.
Sumathipala did not contest the cricket election this year but is a member of the Executive Committee by virtue of being immediate past president.
It is clear that this new regulation is directed at Sumathipala, who has publicly admitted to his family’s involvement in the betting business but managed to hold office given the ambiguity of the previous regulations.
This is a death blow to Sumathipala, the self-proclaimed godfather of Sri Lankan cricket whose dream of getting elected to the highest chair in the ICC now seems shattered. Not only will the local regulation freeze him completely out of the game, the ICC’s new rules will shut him out of its board meetings even if domestic laws are changed in future.