Shocking the tea industry in Sri Lanka, Aggrieved Employees Of Agalawatte Plantations PLC (known as APL) of Mackwoods Group are charging Chris Nonis and his lawyer sister Shelendra Nonis Ranaweera for siphoning out Rs 1.134 Billion rupees (about US Dollars 7.7 Million) from the listed company Agalawatte Plantations PLC reportedly to United Kingdom.
Aggrieved Employees Of Agalawatte Plantations PLC state Nonis- Ranaweera duo have hoodwinked not only the poor estate workers, who presently have Rs. 400 million owed to them on statutory (EPF/ETF) and other dues, but also the shareholders and the Directors of the Mackwoods Group, by siphoning through Nonis’s privately-owned company APL Teas (Pvt) Ltd, unknown to Mackwoods shareholders.
A senior employee and respected veteran in the accounting profession, currently working in the accounts department of the Group (who wishes to remain anonymous) revealed that this Enron type scam, engineered by the brother – sister duo (Chris Nonis and Nonis Ranaweera) has been engineered through a company 100% owned by them called APL Teas (Pvt) Ltd., which from 2005 to 2015 has siphoned out over a rupees 1.134 Billion worth of teas under the guise of providing international marketing and promotional services to Agalawatte Plantation PLC
The Company has been named APL Teas(Pvt) Ltd to deliberately mislead the estate workers, shareholders, directors and public that this is the subsidiary company tea marketing arm of Agalawatte Plantations plc (APL) . This private company owned by the former High Commissioner to the UK and his sister Shelendra, have not disclosed this fact to the shareholders or the Directors of Agalawatte Plantations plc in view of the irregular and illegal dealings with the plantation company .No mention of the true owners of APL Teas (pvt) Ltd appears in any of the Agalawatte Plantations Annual Reports which has been done deliberately to pull wool over everybody’s eyes. A scam of this magnitude, is a first in Sri Lanka’s centuries old tea industry.
The Doctor-Lawyer duo has robbed Rs. 1.134 Billion and most of those monies have been transferred to the UK, under the guise of “international” marketing, branding and promotional expenses. Being UK citizens Nonis and his sister Shelendra have formed several companies in UK that owns multi million Sterling Pound assets purchased from money robbed from Agalwatte Plantation, which is a public company.
A further matter that has come to light is the questionable rights issue of the holding company of the hotel arm of Agalawatte plantations , Taprospa Resorts pvt Ltd where Nonis transferred 60% of Agalawatte plantations shares to a private company 100% owned by him, called Taprospa Holdings Pvt Ltd . Through this, Nonis now has the majority ownership of the hotels coming under Agalawatte Plantations hotel Company, Taprospa Resorts (Pvt) Ltd .Details of the true ownership of the hotel arm have been surpressed from the Agalawatte Plantations Annual Reports. With above fraudulent transaction it is estimated that Nonis has profited atleast a further Rs. 500 Million.
It is evident that Nonis and Shelendra have planned this for a long time to make Mackwoods Group bankrupt and then to acquire its assets with the stolen cash.
Whilst the plantation sector has been going through a challenging time due to fall in market prices, in the case of Agalawatte Plantations the situation is much worse. It is obvious that the systematic siphoning out of money over a period of time has played a big part to the present financial crisis which has now caused Banks to take action against the company for non payment of dues.
In November 2015 estate workers carried out a massive protest at Mackwoods premises in Borella demanding payment of their statutory (EPF/ETF) and other dues amounting to about Rs 400 million, which has built up over a period of 3 years.
The plantation workers have also been shocked and dismayed to find that monthly loan installments deducted from their wages for household goods purchased, have not been paid to finance companies by the company and have resulted in many of their goods being seized by those financial institutions due to non payment of the instalments. Nonis and his sister have even robbed these monies collected and not paid the financial institutions. This whole shocking situation highlights the severe financial irregularities committed by them over the years which have come to light only recently.
The Nonis-Shelendra duo has also brought the husband of Shelendra, Dinesh Ranaweera owner of Royal Hospita,l to Mackwoods Director Board, as the latest partner in crime. His family was involved in the infamous Golden Key scam and was under remand arrest for a considerable period of time. As per reliable sources, the trio are now doctoring the books, causing the delay of Agalawatte AGM since the Annual Report needs re -publication.
It is now evident why Dr Chris Nonis never stepped down from the position of Chairman when he was appointed as High Commissioner to the UK, an accepted practice when taking on a public appointment. He deliberately juggled between two posts, in order to keep all nefarious activities under wraps. During his tenure as the Sri Lankan High Commissioner for UK, he continued to oversee and control all key operations and the finances of the Mackwoods Group, particularly Agalawatte Plantations PLC , having regular video conferencing from UK, and certain key employees making regular trips to UK to have discussions with him relating to Company matters.
Saddest part is that as a Trustee, Chris Nonis is contributing to Prince Charles’ British Asian Trust out of money robbed from the poor estate workers in Sri Lanka.
The Chris Nonis - Shelendra Nonis Ranaweera duo have callously treated the employees with complete disregard , putting the livelihoods of thousands of workers at risk due to their own selfish greediness. The estate employees and shareholders are asking whether this brother – sister duo, should not be held culpable for their dishonest and irregular actions which have grievously harmed the Mackwoods Group, especially Agalawatte Plantations , in which not only the public, but the government and BOC also hold shares.