‘A Rs. 600mn rip-off’
by SURESH PERERA
Scores of prospective buyers of housing units at a proposed condominium project in the outskirts of Colombo have been ripped off for at least Rs. 600 million in, what was been described, as a “major scam” by a developer whose company now remains shut.
In the backdrop of a private sector bank announcing moves to auction the 42-perch site of the envisaged condominium complex as the developer had raised Rs. 120 million in capital financing against the property, distraught victims of the swindle bemoaned that they have now “lost all their hard-earned savings”.
“There are around 52 prospective buyers, most of whom dished out anything between Rs. 5 and 10 million each as downpayment for the apartments”, says Gehan Samaranayake, president of ‘Ramanathan Avenue CM Condo Buyers’ Association’.
He said the developer M/s Civi-Mec Construction (Pvt) Ltd., started selling apartment units for the proposed CM Towers condominium project at No. 14, Ramanathan Avenue, Dehiwala, in 2014 and began construction the same year with the approval of the Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Municipal Council.
At that juncture, approval was given to the developer for a G+17 storied housing complex encompassing 112 middle class apartment units with four floors for parking vehicles. The developer of the project, M/s Civi-Mec Construction, had only one director with a registered office at W. A. Silva Mawatha, Colombo 6. The land earmarked for the housing project was mortgaged to a private sector bank to raise funds for the proposed condominium, Samaranayake noted.
“After entering into sales agreements, we paid a considerable downpayment and continued honoring the subsequent monthly installments to meet the balance as the developer laid the foundation with piling in line with the approved G+17 floor building’, he recalled.
“However, with the change of government in 2015, we were told the new administration restricted the number to nine residential floors, and the reason adduced was that some officials responsible for granting approvals were demanding substantial inducements to give the green light for the original plan of G+17 floors”, the Association’s president asserted.
He said at that point, the private bank, which agreed to finance the 112-housing unit project, stopped further funding as it was considered non-viable to invest on heavy foundations and have only nine residential floors with 64 condominium units, instead of 17 floors.
The developer abandoned the project at this stage in 2018 and stopped paying the loan installments to the bank, closed his office and went into hiding. The desperate buyers made complaints to the Police, CID and the Fraud Bureau, with some opting for civil cases as well. Subsequently, the CID arrested the director of Civi-Mec, who was remanded and later released on bail by the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Courts, Samaranayake noted.
“There are many of us in the Association, who have paid more than Rs. 10 million each for apartments and according to our records, the developer has collected from the known buyers alone Rs. 600 million, without any interest calculated”, he claimed.
He further said that the bank, citing the default of Rs. 120 million loaned towards the project, exercised the powers vested on its board of directors and initiated the process of recovering the loan by auctioning the property by the end of this month.
Vacating an earlier stay order, the Commercial High Court has allowed the bank to auction the property to recover an accumulated Rs. 160 million, inclusive of other costs, he said, while adding that the bank has already given notice of the auction on October 28, 2020.
“Most of the prospective buyers of this proposed middle-class condominium complex are retirees, who had invested their life’s savings on what they thought would be their ‘dream home’. All their hopes have now been shattered”, Samaranayake stressed.
Repeated attempts by The Sunday Island to contact the
director of Civi-Mec Construction on the phone number listed on its website were futile as there was no response.
As indicated by the ‘Ramanathan Avenue CM Condo Buyers’ Association’, the developer’s office in Colombo 6 remained closed. As a result, there was no possibility of contacting the director concerned for comment on the issues raised by those who have now been left in the lurch after forking out millions of rupees.
“If the buyers of the condominiums had entered into sales agreements, we can initiate legal action against the developer”, says Sarana Karunarathna, Chairman, Condominium Management Authority.
“They can write to the Authority so that we can pursue the matter”, he noted, while adding that he was unaware of the developments until The Sunday Island brought the matter to his notice.
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AG not bound by its recommendations, yet to receive report
PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC is not bound by recommendations made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) into the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, or presidential directives in that regard, according to authoritative sources.
They said that the AG couldn’t under any circumstances initiate legal proceedings until he had received the full PCoI report.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the PCoI report on Feb 1. The President’s Office delivered a set of PCoI reports to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Feb 23, a day after the report was presented to the cabinet of ministers. The Island raised the matter with relevant authorities in the wake of a section of the media reporting the PCoI recommending punitive measures against former President Maithripala Sirisena, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujitha Jayasundera, Chief of State Intelligence Senior DIG Nilantha Jayawardena, Chief of National Intelligence retired DIG Sisira Mendis and All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader and Samagi Jana Balavegaya MP Rishad Bathiudeen et al over the Easter Sunday carnage.
Sources pointed out that due to the inordinate delay in sharing the PCoI report with the AG, the department hadn’t been able to take preliminary measures required to initiate the proceedings. Sources said that a team of officers would take at least six weeks or more to examine the report before tangible measures could be taken.
With the AG scheduled to retire on May 24, 2021, even if the AG Department received the P CoI it would be quite a tough task to initiate proceedings ahead of retirement, sources said. However, in terms of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution enacted in last October, both the AG and the IGP could receive extensions beyond 60 at the President’s discretion.
Dappula de Livera received an Acting appointment as the AG a week after the Easter Sunday carnage whereas his predecessor Jayantha Jayasuriya, PC, was elevated to Chief Justice.
Responding to another query, sources said that the Attorney General two weeks ago requested Secretary to the President for a copy of the P CoI. However, the AG was yet to receive one, sources said. In spite of the AG not receiving a P CoI copy, the AG had instructed the IGP to obtain a copy of the report when he requested the police to complete investigations into the Easter Sunday carnage. The AG issued specific instructions after having examined police files pertaining to the investigations.
The IGP, too, hadn’t received a copy so far though some sections of the report were in the public domain.
Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage displayed at a live political programme on Derana a copy of the P CoI report he received at the cabinet meeting earlier in the day.
Sources said that the Attorney General’s Department couldn’t decide on a course of action in respect of the Easter carnage on the basis of a section of the report. In terms of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Section 24), the AG enjoyed significant powers/authority in respect of investigations; sources said adding that the Department urgently required both the P CoI report and police investigations report. The Attorney General’s Department has raised the delay in receiving a P CoI report amidst the Catholic Church attacking the government over the same issue.
Sources said that ministerial committee appointed to study the P CoI report couldn’t decide on how to proceed with the recommendations and the matter was entirely in the hands of the AG. Sources pointed out that the delay on the part of the government to release the report had received the attention of sections of the international media, including the New York Times. Public Security Minister retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera having met Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at the Bishop’s House on Dec 8, 2020 said that the AG would get a copy of the P CoI report once the President received it. Minister Weerasekera said that the CID had handed over the relevant files after having completed investigations into eight blasts. Referring to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) report on the Easter Sunday carnage, the former Navy Chief of Staff said that all such documents would have to be brought to one place and considered before initiating legal proceedings. Acknowledging that there could be delays, lawmaker Weerasekera said that on the instructions of the Attorney General a 12-member team of lawyers was working on the case. The minister vowed to expose the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks. Investigations continued while some of those wanted were overseas, the minister said.
The minister acknowledged that the Attorney General couldn’t proceed without the P CoI report. Minister Weerasekera reiterated that once the President received the P CoI report, it would be sent to the Attorney General. The minister said that there were documents two to three feet high that needed scrutiny. The minister assured comprehensive investigation. The minister said that investigations pertaining to eight blasts had been completed and the reports handed over to the AG. However, the Attorney General had found shortcomings in those investigations.
JVP picks holes in PCoI report
By Saman Indrajith
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday bombings had failed to identify the mastermind of , the JVP said yesterday.
Addressing the media at the party headquarters in Pelawatte, JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath said that the PCoI report had levelled accusations against former President Maithripala Sirisena, former IGP and head of intelligence for their dereliction of duty, shirking of responsibilities and not taking action to prevent the attacks and negligence. There were reference to the causes of the terror attacks and actions to be taken to avoid such attacks and the influence of extremist organisations. “However, there is no mention of the mastermind of the attacks, the handlers of the attackers and those whose interests the carnage served. It is also not mentioned whether there has been any foreign or local organisation behind those attacks. As per the PCoI report the attack took place as a result of culmination of extremism.
“According to the PCoI the extremist activities were a result of the prevailing political situation then. The entire nation was waiting to see who was responsible and who masterminded those attacks. The PCoI has failed to identify the true culprits responsible for the terror attacks. The report says that the leader of the suicide cadres killed himself in the attacks and it was a puzzle. That means those who are actually responsible for the attacks are still at large. The report does not provide exact details of the sources of the attacks. The PCoI had sittings for one year and five months. It summoned various persons and got their statements but it has failed to shed any light on the terror attacks. Everybody knows that the top leaders of the government and heads of security and intelligence establishments failed in their duties. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the second in command and he too is bound by the responsibility but the PCoI report fails to identify him as one of the persons against whom legal action should be instituted. The PCoI has treated Wickremesinghe and former President Maithripala Sirisena differently. We are not telling that this report is a total failure but we cannot accept this as a complete report. The PCoI handed over its report to the President on Feb 1. After 23 days it was sent to Parliament. Now, a copy of the report is there in the parliamentary library for the perusal of MPs.”
Herath said that the PCoI did not have powers to take punitive action. “It only has powers to name those responsible and recommend action to be taken against those named.