Massive financial scandal rocks Sri Lanka Cricket

Chief Financial Officer under microscope

by Rex Clementine

Sri Lanka Cricket’s Finance Division has been sealed off by the CID after an attempt to cheat a sum of US$ 5.5 million that was due to the board as portion of the payment by Sony Television for the upcoming bilateral series against England. England will play three Test matches, five ODIs and a T-20 International and Sony owed SLC more than US$ ten million.

When SLC’s Executive Committee a few months back decided to replace long standing and efficient Head of Finance Chandramali Korale, a few eyebrows were raised but board officials said that they had to move on as she was not corporating with the board.

The board hired a new Head of Finance who had previously worked at the Tourist Board and had expressed satisfaction at the initiatives that he had taken. The spot light will now fall on prominent members of SLC’s former Executive Committee who recommended the new person, who has been under the spotlight of one of the biggest scandals.

With the absence of a Board and with SLC’s affairs being managed by the Sports Ministry Secretary, SLC Head of Finance had enormous clout.

Sony had smelled a rat when the Head of Finance had informed them to remit a sum of US$ 5.5 million to an off-shore account and not to the normal channels of SLC.

When they had inquired about the matter with SLC CEO Ashley de Silva, an inquiry was launched to the incident before it was handed over to the CID yesterday.

The Chief Financial Officer has been asked not to turn up for work until investigations are over.

The US$ 5.5 million that individuals were trying to direct to an illegal account is sufficient to pay annual contracts of about 20 top players for several years.

"SLC was able to successfully avoid a fraudulent attempt to transfer US$ 5.5 million of SLC’s Media Rights Sponsorship funds, which was due from an International Media Network; to an offshore account. The fraudulent act was found, before it was executed through bogus means," SLC said yesterday.

SLC announced that an audit inquiry would be launched into the financial transactions conducted during the past one year. It has been alleged in some quarters that incompetent individuals were handling the finances of one of the richest institutes in the country and there were calls to investigate some of the deals.

SLC is notorious for crooked television deals ever since big money poured into Maitland Place since Sri Lanka’s triumph in the 1996 World Cup.

There was controversy a year after the World Cup triumph in awarding the television rights to an Indian company. A few years later, WSG Nimbu successfully took legal action against SLC for wrongful termination of contract in 2001.

In 2008, then Sports Minister directly entered into a television contract with a blacklisted company despite warning by SLC. True to form, the company (Nimbus) defaulted payments and SLC suffered a loss to the tune of more than ten million US$. That remains SLC’s biggest financial scandal and authorities have failed to investigate.

Former SLC Secretary Nishantha Ranatunga also came under a cloud when SLC sold television rights to a local company of which Ranatunga was the CEO.

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