MiG deal case: AG cites Udayanga’s ab-sence as reason for delay in concluding inves-tigationsView(s):
- Petitioner’s lawyer says his client and family facing severe financial difficulties after bank accounts had been frozen
BY MANOPRIYA GUNASEKARA
Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Russia Udyanga Weeratunga evading the inquiry into the MiG deal was among the reasons for the delay in concluding investigations, Senior State Counsel (SSC) Udara Karunathilaka, who appeared for the Attorney General, told Colombo High Court this week.
The remark was made when a special motion filed by Mr. Weeratunga was taken in the Colombo High Court re-questing court to issue an order to release funds from two of his bank accounts that had been frozen on suspicion that they contained funds deposited as a result of the MiG aircraft deal.
SSC Karunathilka told courts the petitioner had remained overseas from the time the probe was launched in 2015 up until he was arrested in the United Arab Emirates and extradited to Sri Lanka.
The case came up before Colombo High Court Judge Damith Thotawatta on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mr Karunathilaka, told court that investigations were launched following a complaint that a financial fraud had been committed over the purchase of eight MiG aircraft for the Sri Lanka Air Force, and that the petitioner had served as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Russia during the period in question.
The investigation was launched after journalist Iqbal Athas, Defence Correspondent of the Sunday Times complained to the Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) in January2015 alleging that a fraud had been committed when purchasing MiG aircraft for the Sri Lanka Air Force.
A case was initially filed in the Colombo Magistrate’s Court based on a complaint made to the Financial Crime In-vestigation Division (FCID) on March 26, 2015 regarding the 2006 MiG deal.
SSC Karunathilaka added that investigations were ongoing regarding this incident as well as other concurrent inci-dents. He informed court that investigations were hampered due to the petitioner evading returning to Sri Lanka once a probe was launched regarding the MiG deal.
Filing his motion, Mr Weeratunga urged the court to release funds from the two accounts to him, arguing that one of the bank accounts was where his ambassador’s salary had been deposited for nine years while the other contained funds deposited prior to the MiG deal in 2006.
Anil De Silva, PC, represented Mr Weeratunga .
Presenting a sworn affidavit submitted by Mr Weeratunga, De Silva, PC, told the court that his client had been put in severe financial difficulties owing to his bank accounts being arbitrarily frozen for eight years.
Mr Weeratunga’s counsel argued that it was completely unjustified that his client’s bank accounts had been arbi-trarily frozen on charges related to the MiG deal, which had been conducted 17 years ago. It was submitted that the Director of the Central Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit had extended the period that the accounts will be frozen until September 14.
The counsel further told court that his client was the sole breadwinner of his family and the move to freeze his bank accounts had caused difficulties for his two children who are still engaged in studies. Meanwhile, all payments made from the bank accounts on a monthly basis have been stopped for the past eight years, which is a violation of his fundamental rights, he stressed.
De Silva, PC asked court to unfreeze his client’s account with Commercial Bank, where funds had been deposited prior to the MiG deal, as well as the account where his ambassador’s salary was deposited for nine years.
Nevertheless, SSC Karunathilaka noted that it was difficult to give a timeframe regarding how long this process would take.
He informed court that he will look into whether funds can be released from the account belonging to Mr Weera-tunga where his salary had been deposited prior to July, 2006
He told court that if there is a possibility of having these funds released, the AG’s Department will notify court via a motion.
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