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UDAYANGA’S MONEY LAUNDERING BARED

As police officers and senior prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Department race to finalise preparations to travel to Dubai and repatriate former Ambassador Udayanga Weeratunga to Sri Lanka, more information is coming to light about Weeratunga’s involvement in alleged money laundering into Sri Lanka.

Weeratunga, an accused in the 2006 “MiG deal” in which the Air Force was cheated into paying US$ 14.7 million into a shell company controlled by business associates of Weeratunga, was placed in immigration detention in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, February 4.

Immigration officers discovered that his passport had been invalidated for travel by the Department of Immigration and Emigration pursuant to a court order.

According to documents filed with the Supreme Court, an independent money laundering investigation conducted by the CID has revealed that Weeratunga has received wire transfers in a value in excess of US$ 4.1 million from companies and bank accounts including Cyprus, Panama, Russia, Latvia, Marshall Islands, Belize and the United Arab Emirates.

A CID affidavit said that investigators suspect that some of these entities “do not engage in licit business activities (generally referred to as shell companies)”, and that the reasons given for these bank transfers included payments to him for software development, building materials, rent and for tea, while others gave no reasons for the transfer.

The investigating officer further affirmed that she believes that the bank accounts of Weeratunga contained proceeds of unlawful activities conducted by the former ambassador. Investigations by the CID and FCID have not revealed any involvement by Weeratunga in the fields of software development or building materials, nor any payments from Weeratunge to entities involved in software development or building materials, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

The FCID claims that Weeratunga was complicit in the forgery of the contract for the MiG deal, and that he conspired with individuals in Singapore and Ukraine to mislead the Air Force into paying US $14.7 million for goods and services, where the Ukrainian government supplier says they received only US$7 million.

The whereabouts of the remaining US$7.7 million are unknown, and are the subject of a wide ranging asset tracing and recovery investigation underway by both the CID and FCID.