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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » DAILY CHRONICLE™ » Oil hedging cases could have been heard in Sri Lanka

Oil hedging cases could have been heard in Sri Lanka

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UAEBOY

UAEBOY
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
In disturbingly characteristic fashion, authorities have allowed oil hedging cases to be heard outside the country when the Sri Lankan legal system could have dealt with the issue here in the country, which would have cost the public purse a pittance compared to what has already been paid to foreign law firms, not to mention travelling and accommodation costs for officials involved in the cases, while the fiasco of importing contaminated petrol and diesel could have been avoided had steps been taken to rectify dubious procurement methods which were highlighted much earlier, with the state acting on this warning by doing what seems to come easiest to it nothing!


`The Attorney General appearing for the Secretary to the Treasury and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation missed an opportunity to try the controversial oil hedging deals, involving three international banks and two local, here in this country, under Sri Lankan law, which has cost the country Rs. 467 million in legal fees, compared to the Attorney General s Departmentsentire Annual Budget for 2012of Rs. 372 million, with the case by Standard Chartered Bank lost in Appeal in London, with a Claim of US$ 162 million plus Interest.`


This was stated in a comprehensive Letter public interest activist Nihal Sri Ameresekere had addressed to Minister of Petroleum Industries, Susil Premajayantha, with copies to Auditor General and Secretary to the President.


The Letter also disclosed that the authorities had failed to take legal action against officials, who had entered into the oil hedging deals, and this could have been one of the reasons, as to why the Sri Lankan government s position, that these deals were ultra-vires and illegal, would have lost credibility, and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation lost the recent Case against Standard Chartered Bank in London, he said.


`Having failed to punish those officials who perpetrated the oil hedging deals, which the Attorney General himself having asserted, as ultra-vires and illegal, the very same officials had been taken to London to give evidence in the Case filed by Standard Chartered Bank, the appeal of which was lost recently. An appellate court would be confined to the evidence before the primary court.`


Ameresekere in 2009 had applied to the Supreme Court to try the cases against Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Citibank in Sri Lanka itself, citing precedence foranti-suit injunctions, to prevent litigations in foreign countries, since the transactions had been taken place in collusion in this country, with parties involved also being present here, as it was one inter-connected matter. The local costs for the Government would have been nothing, since Ameresekere had filed his Cases in the public interest. Supreme Court had previously suspended these oil hedging deals ex-facie, and had terminated the proceedings on a controversy regarding the reduction of petroleum prices.


`Rather than support me, Attorney General, Mohan Peiris P.C., intriguingly vehemently opposed me on a preliminary objection, on a purported time bar , I verily believe not wanting the facts pertaining to this matter of national economic proportions, being heard and exposed before the Supreme Court and the people of this country,` Ameresekere said in his Letter. Since Petroleum Minister, Susil Premajayantha had indicated that he would instruct the Attorney General to support him, in his Letter Ameresekere states : `Hence, you ought to ascertain, as to who instructed him to so oppose me, whilst appearing for CPC, which came under your purview, as the Minister in charge?`


The Supreme Court had earlier granted Interim Orders directing investigations holding that the CPC was not authorised to enter into transactions other than that of importing and exporting petroleum products. Ameresekere attempted to move the Supreme Court once again, after he had come to know in May 2009 that Standard Chartered Bank had remitted US$ 108 million to UK, and had come know in June 2009, that all three banks, Standard Chartered, Deutsche and Citibank had commenced legal proceedings abroad. Ameresekere asserts that he had made in his Applications within 30 days of such events, whereas the Attorney General had `misled the Supreme Court assuring that he would succeed in defending the foreign litigations, which has caused utter wastage of public money for which he would stand responsible`.


In a separate Letter addressed to the Attorney General on 24.6.2010 Ameresekere had asserted: `the Attorney General gave the Supreme Court an unqualified assurance and guarantee, that he would certainly succeed in the foreign legal proceedings against the Government of Sri Lanka and the CPC, and that therefore no payments, whatsoever, would thereby have to be made from public funds to the respondents banks,under these illegal deals as admitted by the Attorney General and that he would also recover the costs, reckoned to be in the region of Rs. 150 million incurred utilizing public funds, to defend these foreign legal proceedings, in retaining foreign Counsel and Experts, including costs incurred in overseas travel by you and other Counsel.`

http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2012/8/78289.html

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