INTERPOL detains Udayanga in Dubai: Awaiting deportation

Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga has been taken into custody by law enforcement authorities in the United Arab Emirates yesterday.

A deportation order is expected to facilitate his removal to Sri Lanka, according to several police and diplomatic sources with knowledge of the events.

Weeratunga was detained as he tried to board a flight from Dubai International Airport bound for Los Angeles, where he was expected to meet with his cousin, former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Both Rajapaksa and Udayanga are suspects in the investigation conducted by the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID) into the 2006 purchase and overhaul of MiG fighter aircraft to the Sri Lanka Air Force.

According to court documents, Ukrainian citizen Dmytro Peregudov was brought to Sri Lanka in February 2006 by Weeratunga, who was then a private citizen, for a meeting with his cousin, the newly-appointed defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Defence Ministry. Following the meeting, which was documented in direct correspondence between Rajapaksa and Peregudov, the Air Force entered into a contract valued at US$ 14.7 million, purportedly with the Government of Ukraine, for the purchase and overhaul of MiG aircraft.

The FCID investigation had revealed that Ukrainian authorities have asserted that the contract signed by Sri Lanka was forged, and that they received less than half of the US $14.7 million paid by the Air Force, with the remainder having been siphoned away through a shell company, Bellimissa Holdings, linked to business associates of Udayanga Weeratunga. Weeratunga was also directly involved in negotiating the contract between the Ukrainian suspect and the Air Force. He was present when the contract was signed in Moscow.

When the deal was exposed in 2007 by the Editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, Rajapaksa publicly defended the MiG deal on television appearances, and sued Wickrematunge for defamation.

Wickrematunge was killed just days before he was due to testify in the defamation case. According to a confidante of the slain editor, he intended to reveal his evidence against Rajapaksa in open court.That same evidence is now in the hands of the FCID and has assisted them in their investigation.

The FCID in 2016 named Weeratunga a suspect in the case, and the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court has issued a warrant for Weeratunga on charges of cheating and forgery for the purpose of cheating read as offences against public property. The court also ordered his passport impounded. The FCID thereafter assembled a task force comprising assistance from the Foreign Ministry, Attorney General’s department, the Defence Ministry and the Criminal Investigation Department to locate Weeratunga and remove him to Sri Lanka.

INTERPOL assistance was sought to locate Weeratunga in Dubai and he was thereafter placed under surveillance. When the police learnt of his plans to travel to visit Rajapaksa in Los Angeles, action was taken to alert Dubai authorities that his passport was invalidated for travel, allowing the Dubai Criminal Investigation Department to take him into custody when he tried to clear emigration at the airport.

Weeratunga is expected to be returned to Sri Lanka within the coming week. Meanwhile according to law enforcement officials, the FCID is also awaiting the arrival in Sri Lanka of former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is wanted for further investigations. The FCID has learned that Rajapaksa, who left Sri Lanka in December on an American passport, is due to return to Colombo on an Emirates flight on Monday, February 12, after the local government elections are concluded. 

Share on Google Plus

About Lankaimage lanka

This is a short description in the author block about the author. You edit it by entering text in the "Biographical Info" field in the user admin panel.