SC re-fixes rights petition by ex-diplomat Weeratunga

Wednesday, 7 December 2016 00:13 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By S. S. Selvanayagam

The Supreme Court yesterday (6) fixed for support on 11 January for granting of leave in respect of the fundamental rights petition filed by former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga seeking to recall the international arrest warrant issued against him by Sri Lankan authorities.

The Bench comprised Chief Justice K. Sripavan and Justice Prasanna S. Jayawardane.

The Colombo Fort Magistrate›s Court on 20 October allowed the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) of the Police to issue the international warrant through the Interpol to arrest Weeratunga in connection with an investigation into alleged financial irregularities with regard to a MiG aircraft deal. 

Weeratunga, in his petition, stated that he is currently residing in Mekhanizatoriv Street, Kiev, Ukraine. He filed his petition through his mother-in-law and power of attorney holder Latha Indrani. He cited the officer in charge of the FCID and six others as respondents. Manohara de Silva PC with Arienda Wijesurendra appeared for the petitioner. Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kothagoda with Deputy Solicitor General Dilipa Peiris appeared for the State.

The petitioner stated that the seventh respondent, a Chief Inspector of the FCID, had moved the Magistrate’s Court for a warrant for the arrest of the petitioner.

The petitioner sought a declaration from Court that the Chief Inspector infringed the petitioner’s fundamental rights, guaranteed in Articles 11, 12(1) and 13 of the Constitution.

The petitioner said the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Central Bank has infringed his fundamental rights by his purported decision to suspend debit transaction of the bank accounts of the petitioner, in contravention of the provisions of the Financial Transaction Reporting Act No. 6 of 2006.

In his complaint to the FCID, journalist Iqbal Athas stated that he had written several articles regarding the financial irregularities that had taken place in procuring four Mig-27 aircraft at a higher price. He told the police that these ground attack aircraft had been manufactured between 1980 and 1983. He said financial irregularities had taken place during the transaction between Sri Lanka and Ukraine. 

The petitioner is asking Court to issue directives to the seven respondents to pay Rs. 100 m in compensation and to release a container with goods belonging to Weeratunga.

Weeratunga, who is a nephew of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is alleged to have committed financial misappropriation to the tune of $ 14 m while purchasing four Ukraine-built MIG-27 aircraft for the Sri Lanka Air Force in 2005.

The FCID, in an earlier occasion, had told the Colombo Fort Magistrate›s Court that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been unable to serve notice to Weeratunga, who has been residing in Ukraine for several years.

The Sri Lankan Government recently entered into an agreement with the Government of Ukraine to extradite criminals hiding in the eastern European country. The agreement will provide the opportunity to request authorities in Ukraine to receive criminals who have engaged in illegal activities in Sri Lanka and sought protection in Ukraine.