Another tall story? | Sunday Observer

Another tall story?

Planning permission granted to Horton Square, branded as another mega estate project, launched with much fanfare in April this year, was rescinded last week by the government.

The decision to cancel the permission for the purported 75-storey project, in the former Asha Central land at Horton Place, Colombo 7, came in the wake of the World Commercial Centre fiasco where the Board of Investments (BOI) entered into an agreement with an entity whose credentials were not checked before the agreement was signed and no proper due diligence was carried out.

Sources indicate that the government´s decision to rescind the planning permission was arrived at a Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe following reports that the planning permission guidelines issued to the project promoters by the Urban Development Authority (UDA), contravened the established guidelines that prohibits construction of high rise buildings over 22 stories in that area.

“The project also lacks

direct road frontage to a main road and will be using two by-lanes for traffic,” a source told the Sunday Observer, indicating that under such circumstances, it is not possible to provide planning permission for a project of that nature. According to BOI sources, the BOI had rejected the project proposal submitted to them by Supreme Global Holdings Ltd, “As we could not ascertain the project viability and were sceptical of their claim that a building of 75 stories could be constructed in that location.”

The Sunday Observer was not able to reach the Chairman of Supreme Global Holdings, R.M. Manivannan for his comments.

Manivannan was also the promoter behind the SupremeSAT-1 launched in 2012 with the involvement of Rohitha Rajapaksa, the youngest son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was later established that the satellite did not belong to SupremeSat with only some channels being rented by Manivannan´s company.

While Supreme Global Holdings were the promoter of the project in the BOI application, the land was sold by Asha Central to a Rienzie Edwards in 2012 and it is believed that Edwards is still the beneficial owner of the land. Edwards was indicted in December last year by the United States government for a purported US$50 million fraud where the indictment claimed that US$40 million was transferred to Sri Lanka through the following bank accounts:

National Development Bank, Acct. No. 101000260558, held in the name of L.B. Karalliyadde Associates. See page 12

  • Hatton National Bank, Acct. No. 176010005299, held in the name of L.B. Karalliyadde Associates.
  • Sampath Bank, Acct. No. 512340000049, held in the name of Green Fields Consultancy Services Ltd.
  • Sampath Bank, Acct. No. 012310001072, held in the name of Green Fields Services Ltd.
  • Sampath Bank, Acct. No. 012320000831, held in the name of Mansion Kandy Pvt. Ltd.
  • HSBC Bank, Acct. No. 005184973001, held in the name of Punya Prianji Menike Edwards (Punya Edwards), wife of Rienzi Edwards

L. B. Karalliyadde Associates is allegedly a company incorporate in April 2015 in Singapore to carryout business and management consultancy services.

The company was struck off on July 1, 2017. With a registered address in Collyer Quay, Singapore this company is not related to the Sri Lankan lawyers of the same name, according to sources. The US government has moved to freeze any assets linked to these accounts. In addition to the Horton Place land, Edwards also owns a string of boutique hotels, including the Mansion, Kandy, the former Nugawela Walauwe, and at least two other properties at Alexandra Place, Colombo 7 and at Martensyne Tower, Colombo 7.

Investigators believe Edwards has been involved in a number of other alleged frauds, going back to the late 1990s, when he first came to the notice of United Kingdom authorities.

However, other than for a single conviction on handling stolen goods where he was given a two-year suspended sentence and put on board a flight to Sri Lanka from London in 2008, there are no other records of convictions.

The Horton Square project was billed as ‘a St Regis Hotels and Residences branded mega real estate development project, that is set to redefine Colombo’s skyline, marking a watershed moment in Sri Lanka’s development story’, in public relations materials.

“It will be one of the tallest twin towers in the country, and will house luxurious apartments built and furnished in line with global St Regis standards, prime commercial space, and a luxury St Regis Hotel, the esteemed brand of the Starwood Group.

“Today’s ground-breaking of Horton Square marks a milestone for Sri Lanka. This is not just another building but a symbol of renewed investor confidence both in the future of Sri Lanka, its growth potential, as well as the aspirations of her people. “Sri Lanka is emerging as a ‘high value’ destination both for foreign investment boosting the economy, and for tourists. Horton Square represents the full confidence that we and our partners have in the potential for Sri Lanka and I have no doubt that we will lead the way for international investors to follow suit,” Paul Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of the Horton Square Pte Ltd, the company exclusively set up to manage the project, was quoted as saying in the publicity material.

There is no record of Horton Square Pte Ltd. in the Company Registrars office.