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Udayanga on the run, passports impounded in Dubai

Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga and his wife are reportedly on the run after Sri Lankan authorities had taken measures to have a red warrant issued against him.

However, a source closely associated with this investigation said he did not have a passport as his passport had been impounded by the Dubai Police.

Responding to posts by Weeratunge on social media, stating that there is no red alert issued against him, this legal source said, “From last year INTERPOL does not display the red alerts on their website due to various human rights issues.Therefore, although the red notice is issued for his arrest, it is not displayed on the INTERPOL website. The team from Sri Lanka went to Dubai and extensive discussions were held with the Dubai authorities.Udayanga Weeratunga had also been questioned at length by the Dubai authorities and released on the assurance that he would not leave the country and that he would make himself available for questioning when required by the Sri Lankan authorities.”

However, after the red alert was issued and the Sri Lankan authorities had obtained a warrant for his arrest, he was asked to report to them for a statement. However, he had not reported to the Dubai Police and has been on the run, together with his wife. It is also evident that if he is to leave the country, he has to take the sea route, which is risky. But the source said he may even try to escape that way. However his escape is not going to be easy.

Meanwhile, issuing a statement yesterday, Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said Weeratunga still has the opportunity to return to Sri Lanka and present himself to the court in order to prove his innocence, instead of making statements on social media.

The Police Spokesman said, “Weeratunga is a citizen of Sri Lanka.Therefore he must respect and adhere to the laws of this country. Instead of declaring his innocence through social media, he has the opportunity to return to Sri Lanka and prove his innocence before a court of law.The Sri Lankan Police have not restricted or prevented him from doing so.”

A complaint was received by the FCID on March 10, 2015 regarding a financial embezzlement that had taken place in 2006 during the purchase of four MiG aircraft and the overhaul of the four aircraft that belonged to the Sri Lanka Air Force. Accordingly, an investigation was initiated and findings were presented to court under case number B639/15.

During this investigation Weeratunga’s involvement in this deal was revealed and it was also disclosed that he had received large sums of money to his bank accounts from overseas which was highly suspicious. He was wanted to record a statement in this regard.

Although the summons for him to appear in court were issued through his close relatives and diplomatic channels, he had chosen to disregard it.

Taking into consideration the fact that Udayanga had no intention of cooperating with the investigations willingly, an open warrant was issued for his arrest on October 20, 2016. Further court issued an order to freeze 16 bank accounts operated by him. At the time there was around US$ 1.7 million in his bank accounts.

On the basis of a Blue Notice obtained by Interpol Sri Lanka on Weeratunga, Sri Lanka authorities had been working through mutual legal assistance with a number of countries to trace his whereabouts and subsequently a red alert was issued.

His diplomatic service ended on February 28, 2015 but instead of handing over or cancelling the diplomatic passport D3643585 that was issued to him, on March 6, 2015 he had obtained a normal passport from the Immigration and Emigration Department in Sri Lanka. Investigations have revealed that he had used this passport and travelled to the UAE on October 4, 2016.

Subsequently, the Colombo Fort Magistrate issued an order to impound the passport bearing number D3643585 and passport number N 5400885.

However, the former Ambassador had tried to use his diplomatic passport bearing number D3643585 and travel to the USA via the UAE when he was intercepted in the UAE on February 4,2018.

In a social media post on February 20 Weeratunga had stated that he had requested the investigation team that had gone to Ukraine to record a statement from him there, but they had failed to do so. However, investigations have revealed that at the time the Sri Lankan team was in Ukraine on October 4, 2016, Weeratunga had been in the UAE and not in Ukraine.