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Sri Lanka’s Ex-defence Chief Faces Fresh Probe

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s presidential commission investigating serious abuse of power and financial fraud Thursday cleared the way for prosecutions of former defence chief Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and four others.

Rajapakse cohorts include two former navy commanders — retired admirals Jayantha Colombage and Jayantha Perera, additional defence secretary Damayanthi Jayaratne and Avant Garde chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi.

All five were named today as being “responsible” for illegally transferring defence ministry weapons to third parties as well as using staff of Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited (RALL) for private work.

RALL, a fully-owned subsidiary of the defence ministry, has been the conduit for weapons going into the private security firm of Senadhipathi. The Sri Lanka navy has found that thousands of weapons had gone missing after they were given to RALL and Avant Garde.

Avant Garde has denied any wrong doing and maintain that it had a legally binding agreement with the defence ministry. However, the authorities say that the agreement was not legally binding as it had been executed without cabinet or parliamentary approval.

With the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges, the first steps have been taken to initiate criminal charges.

The named individuals have objected to being held responsible, but the commission has given them time till December 2 to make written objections.

However, fresh hearings have been fixed for December 3, 4, 11, 22 and 23.

The law and order minister Tilak Marapana was forced to resign earlier this month over allegations of conflict of interest after it was revealed that he had been the legal counsel for Avant Garde which is under police investigation.

Investigators are still trying to locate thousands of weapons they say have disappeared from state inventories after they were transferred to third parties.

The new government of President Maithripala Sirisena has accused the former first family of stashing “billions” of dollars in foreign banks and abusing their power during his decade in office.

Another younger brother of the former leader, Basil, is facing a criminal prosecution over allegations that he used state money for his political campaign work.

The former president himself is under investigation by another anti-graft commission. He has slammed the string of corruption probes against him and his relatives as part of a “witch-hunt” instigated by his successor. (COLOMBO, Nov 26, 2015)


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