The parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) chaired by senior minister D. E. W. Gunasekara has unearthed a series of white collar crimes in the State Timber Corporation when it was under former Forestry and Environment Minister Mahinda Wijesekara, a parliament source said yesterday.
He said the Auditor General’s 2001/2002 Timber Corporation Report had revealed that in 2001 the Corporation had under mysterious circumstances invested Rs.30 million in a private joint venture thus violating financial and administrative regulations and public enterprise guidelines.
The funds had been invested in a company called ‘Lanka Timber Plantations Ltd’ and a COPE inquiry had revealed that this company had no Directors nor had it obtained ministry approval for such a project and neither were Environment Ministry or the State Timber Corporation aware of the project or about the investment .
This controversial and illegal investment had been made by the STC at the time Leelanda De Silva was its Chairman, Mahinda Wijesekara the minister and Bandula Basnayaka his deputy.
The source said the COPE members were of the view that the fraudulently established joint venture was nonexistent now and that they had alleged that the sole purpose to set up the company was to embezzle State Timber Corporation funds.
The COPE chairman had instructed the Environment Ministry Secretary to initiate criminal and civil action against STC’s ex-chairman Leelananda Perera and others who were involved in this controversial investment.
The Auditor General’s Report had also revealed that four vehicles of the State Timber Corporation had been released to the line ministry and some others contrary to Para 8.3.9 of the Public Enterprises Circular No. PED/12 June 2, 2003.
Three of the vehicles had been returned. But the vehicle No. 65/4013 appears to have been retained by the then deputy minister Bandula Basnayaka and is still to be returned.
The COPE Chairman has also directed the Environment Ministry Secretary to lodge a complaint with the police about getting this vehicle returned and to take legal action against him. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)