8.5 C
Monday, April 22, 2024

Sri Lanka Probes Deals By Ex-president, Brothers Amid Graft Concerns

By Shihar Aneez

(Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s new government will investigate all financial deals sealed by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers during his term as head of state and will take legal action if they involved any corruption, a minister said on Wednesday.

Rajapaksa lost his bid for a third term in an election on Jan. 8 after a campaign that had focused on misuse of public funds and on his powers and those of his family members, many of whom held public office during his decade in power.

“All the alleged deals by the Rajapaksas will be investigated,” government spokesman Rajitha Senarathne, who is also health minister, told reporters.

Rajapaksa and his brothers have denied any wrongdoing.

Senarathne said former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who oversaw the military defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists after a 26-year war, was alleged to have maintained a “private military” with a floating armoury, something he has denied.

On Sunday police seized more than 3,000 weapons in 20 containers from the armoury, run by private security firm Avant Garde Maritime Services (Pvt) Ltd and docked in the southern port of Galle.

The police also found 151 arms in a cache on Tuesday maintained by state-owned Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Ltd (RALL) in a Colombo convention centre where Pope Francis attended an inter-faith meeting during his visit to Sri Lanka last week.

Senarathne said a further 3,000 weapons had gone missing from the Colombo cache.

“A private firm can’t have so many weapons … They could stage an armed rebellion very easily. We have stopped these operations,” he said.

In a local daily The Island, the former defence secretary rejected the allegations against him.

“(RALL) is a profitable enterprise and the profits go to the government. It became the foremost organisation providing security for ships in this region. Destroying this enterprise is a crime,” he was quoted as saying.

A second brother of the ex-president, former economic development minister Basil Rajapaksa, faces allegations of misusing state resources during the election, Senarathne said.

Basil Rajapaksa, who left for the United States where he has citizenship soon after the election, was not immediately available for comment on the allegations.

The government is also reviewing all large Chinese-funded infrastructure projects signed under Rajapaksa to check whether their prices were inflated.

Sri Lanka’s Marxist opposition filed a corruption complaint last week against Rajapaksa and his relatives and asked the anti-graft body to stop them leaving the country.

[Image :Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa listens to a speech during his final rally ahead of presidential election in Piliyandala January 5, 2015.Credit: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte]

(Editing by Gareth Jones) Reuters


Latest news

Related news