Minister of Transport, Kumar Welgama, admitted in Parliament yesterday a fraud to the tune of
Rs 6.4 billion had taken place at the Department of Motor Traffic, due to the registering of assembled vehicles.
Welgama said the fraud was highlighted in the 2010 annual report of the Auditor General, and added it had been committed by a group of vehicle importers, who had imported chassis of vehicles citing them as spare parts.
"The parts were assembled here and released to the market under the numbers of vehicles already registered at the Department. The government lost around Rs 6,400 million due to this loss of new registrations," he revealed.
The fraudsters had made use of the special permission granted to import vehicle chassis in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, the minister said adding the engines and gear boxes too had been imported under the category of spare parts. Around 2,000 vehicles had been released to the market in this manner and of them 1,900 have been assigned registered numbers of old vehicles.
Minister Welgama said not only the officials attached to the Department, but also some in the Import and Export Department and Customs Department are responsible for this. He said he asked the Commissioner of Motor Traffic to send inquiries to the Controller of Import and Export with regard to this issue.
"Under previously used mechanism of motor vehicle registration, the numbers were not issued in batches and the English letters were not there either. A group of officials had got involved in this operation by helping the fraudsters to find old registration numbers," he charged. Minister Welgama said an investigation is in progress and the Criminal Investigation Department and the Fraud Investigation Bureau are also involved in the probe.
The minister said this in response to a question raised by Matara District UNP MP Buddhika Pathirana.