Court rejects recalling of Udayanga's warrant

The Colombo Fort Magistrate yesterday rejected a request made by former Ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga to recall the arrest warrant issued against him through the INTERPOL over alleged financial fraud that is alleged to have taken place in procuring seven MiG-27 ground attack craft for the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).

Colombo Fort Magistrate Ms. Lanka Jayaratne further rejected an application made by Udayanga Weeratunga challenging the impounding of two passports belonging to him as part of the investigations into the controversial MiG aircraft deal.

Defence Counsel Anil Silva PC appearing on behalf of Udayanga Weeratunga had requested to recall the arrest warrant issued against him through the INTERPOL and not to impound his passports.

The Magistrate observed that there are no reasonable grounds to recall the warrant against the suspect since he is alleged to have committed cognisable offences. Udayanga Weeratunga had been noticed to appear before the FCID but he did not turn up.

“The Court had also issued notices to his local and foreign residences. A law abiding citizen should not behave like this,” the Magistrate observed. Meanwhile, the Magistrate orally observed that the prosecutors should take necessary action against other persons involved in this alleged fraudulent transaction.

On June 30, the Colombo Fort Magistrate ordered to impound two passports belonging to former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga in the magisterial inquiry pertaining to the controversial MiG aircraft transaction.

Accordingly, a diplomatic passport bearing number D 3643585 and a general passport bearing number N 5400885 issued by the Sri Lankan government to Udayanga Weeratunga were ordered to be impounded by Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne in accordance with Section 124 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Section 51 C of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act. Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne had earlier issued a warrant through INTERPOL for the arrest of former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga, a first cousin of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa over alleged financial fraud that is alleged to have taken place in procuring seven MiG-27 ground attack craft for the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLFA).

Anil Silva, PC submitted to Court that issuing of warrant against his client and impounding his passports had not been done in accordance with the law. He further said Weeratunga has been in Ukraine for nearly three decades.

The Financial Crimes Investigations Division(FCID) conducting investigations into the controversial MiG aircraft transaction informed Court that they have sought the assistance of INTERPOL to trace former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga who is currently living in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The FCID informed Court that they were yet to ascertain Udayanga’s exact address in UAE and further said he has visited multiple countries including Japan using passports issued by Sri Lankan government.

The FCID conducting investigations into the MiG aircraft transaction had named Udayanga Weeratunga as a suspect in the case through a B report dated October 11, 2016. The FCID sought a warrant written in English through the Interpol from the Fort Magistrate’s Court to arrest former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga over alleged financial fraud that is alleged to have taken place in procuring seven MiG-27 ground attack craft for the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLFA). The FCID told Court that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unable to serve notices on Udayanga Weeratunga who has been residing in Ukraine for several years.

The FCID had informed Court that Weeratunga had directly intervened into the questionable transaction in procuring MiG-27 ground attack craft. The FCID said the deal amounted to US$14 million. On June 9, 2016, the Colombo Fort Magistrate had issued notices on Weeratunga to appear in Court July 15 but he did not turn up.The FCID had told Court that they were investigating whether the former Sri Lankan ambassador in Russia had invested money in a company called Sri Lankan Limited Liability Company in Moscow, which were allegedly earned through the Mig-27 transaction. The FCID launched this investigation following a complaint lodged by defence columnist and political writer Iqbal Athas.

In his complaint to the FCID,journalist Iqbal Athas stated that he had written several articles regarding the financial irregularities that had taken place in procuring four Mig-27 aircraft at a higher price. He told the police that these ground attack aircrafts had been manufactured between 1980 and 1983. He said financial irregularities had taken place during the transaction between Sri Lanka and Ukraine. 

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