Separate probe on X-Press Pearl bribery case | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Separate probe on X-Press Pearl bribery case

30 April, 2023

Sri Lanka has launched legal proceedings in Singapore to obtain compensation for the ecological devastation wrought by the ‘X-Press Pearl’ freighter, Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told the Sunday Observer yesterday.

The ship was carrying 1,488 containers, including hazardous goods such as nitric acid, oil, and plastic pellets when it caught fire and sank off the Western coast of Sri Lanka in 2021.

The country has taken legal action against the Singapore-flagged vessel for the catastrophic harm it has caused to the environment, with environmentalists estimating the damage at over US$ 50 billion.

He was responding to our query on the bribe of US$ 250 million, which was said to have been paid to a bank account in the UK, possibly to prevent the legal process in the X-Press Pearl affair. Dr. Rajapakshe said this bribery case had been placed under investigation separately. “The country has taken legal action to get compensation from the Singapore-flagged ship X-Press Pearl for the environmental damage. I cannot answer for various baseless allusions made by certain groups over this matter,” he said, “We have to go by facts, findings, and firm legal grounds.”

Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam has filed the lawsuit at the Singapore Commercial Court. We asked former Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) chairman Darshani Lahandapura whether she knew anything that might have led to a bribery incident attempted by officials or the authorities to obstruct the legal process in the ‘X-Press Pearl’ affair. Lahandapura was the MEPA chairman when the ‘X-Press Pearl’ was found ablaze and sinking off the West coast of Sri Lanka in 2021. Lahandapura said, “If someone had taken a bribe, they should be brought to justice. Bribery is an area beyond the MEPA’s control. Anybody can say anything, but the top brass must first verify them. The culprit or culprits should be brought before justice immediately.”

Asked about the Justice Minister’s allegation on the US$ 250 million bribe, she said, “I do not know about it, but if he had such information, then immediate action should have been taken against the suspects in question. Since the Minister has revealed a name and an account number in the UK, it would not be difficult to find and take legal action against him.”