In a major breakthrough in the ongoing investigations into corruption in Sri Lankan cricket, the International Cricket Council’s Anti Corruption Unit has unearthed new evidence with which criminal charges could be filed against former President of SLC Thilanga Sumathipala.
Sumathipala, who was first elected as President of SLC in 1998, remains suspended from functioning in his role as Immediate Past President of the board on a directive by Sports Ministry.
Confidential sources told The Island that in a report handed over by the ICC to Sports Ministry, they had found incriminating evidence against Sumathipala. The report claims that SLC’s host broadcaster made a payment of US$ 100,000 to a private account operated by the former cricket chief in 1997. It has also emerged that half of this payment was meant to be set aside for then Sports Minister!
The payment had been done by Mark Mascarenhas, who founded Worldtel in 1989. Mascarenhas died of a car accident in Madras in 2002.
Sumathipala wasn’t the President of Board of Control for Cricket in 1997. The Board was headed by Upali Dharmadasa and Sumathipala was one of the Vice-Presidents. However, Sumathipala was the Chairman of Sponsorship Committee at that point.
Glen Palmer, a close confidant of Sumathipala once upon a time has spilled the beans on what had taken place more than 20 years ago. The report further establishes that Sumathipala had direct links with the betting industry and Palmer, who hails from the United Kingdom was helping him to further his interests in the betting industry.
Palmer and Sumathipala had fallen out and the former had come out with incriminating evidence including copies of cheques and telephone conversations.
When contacted by The Island, Sumathipala denied all charges.
“The Minister is going after me after I started working against the UNP. I don’t want to waste my time. Anyway, UNP’s days are numbered,” said Sumathipala.
“I have been asking what are the complaints against me. They have not given me anything so far. They have been attacking me and trying to create a media hype against me. This is an ex parte inquiry. Where is the justice in this country,” Sumathipala further said.
The ICC stepped up investigations on Sri Lanka Cricket after the national cricket team’s shock defeat to Zimbabwe at home. Since then several players, coaches and those involved with the game have been either suspended or provisionally suspended.
Last year, a significant portion of the money the host broadcaster owed SLC was transferred into an offshore account. A similar effort to transfer several million dollars to the same offshore account was prevented in the last minute.
Ever since SLC has maintained that there had been a cyber attack into their system. However, software experts have ruled out a cyber attack.
Last month, Parliamentary watchdog COPE asked SLC officials how many bank accounts they had overseas? SLC officials were unable to provide a clear answer.