Local agent deleted e-mails exchanged with X-Press Pearl captain, court told

Local agent deleted e-mails exchanged with X-Press Pearl captain, court told

The Colombo Magistrate’s Court on Monday rejected the appeal to name issue notices to seven individuals including the Managing Director of Sea Consortium Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., the Sri Lankan agent of the operator of X-Press Pearl which was ravaged by fire off Colombo Harbour.

When the case was taken up before Colombo Additional Magistrate Shalani Perera on Monday (June 07), Deputy Solicitor General Madhawa Tennakoon who appeared on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) sought an order naming the said individuals as suspects of the case and to issue notices ordering them to appear before the court.

Raising objections, President’s Counsel Sarath Jayamanne, who represented the cargo ship’s chief engineer and the first assistant engineer, stated that the Magistrate’s Court has no jurisdiction to hear the case and that it should be carried out by the High Court.

Taking into account the submissions, the additional magistrate dismissed the request, citing that the Magistrate’s Court does not have the jurisdiction to issue notices to the said individuals.

However, accepting a request made by the CID, the additional magistrate ordered the Navy Commander to protect the vessel’s submerged wreckage.

The additional magistrate also called for the originals of the e-mails exchanged between the local agent and the vessel’s captain to be handed over to the CID.

Further, the CID was ordered to direct the Singapore-registered cargo ship’s Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) – also known as the maritime “black box” – to the Government Analyst and to submit the relevant report to the court.

According to Deputy Solicitor General Madhawa Tennakoon, the ongoing probes have uncovered that the acid leak onboard the vessel was first reported on May 10. He alleged that the captain and the crew had provided false information to enter Sri Lankan waters, despite being aware of the situation.

While awaiting permission for anchorage at the Colombo Harbour after entering Sri Lankan waters, the local agent on May 20 had informed the Habour Master of a fire onboard, the state prosecutor said further.

However, President’s Counsel representing the chief engineer and the first assistant engineer refuted the allegations that the vessel entered Sri Lankan waters concealing the truth about the acid leak.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Solicitor General revealed that the local agent has deleted several e-mails exchanged with the vessel’s captain that are vital to the investigations.

The case is scheduled to be taken up again on June 15.