The Colombo Fort Magistrate today issued a warrant to arrest Sri Lanka’s former ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga, who is currently in hiding overseas.
The warrant has been issued through Interpol over Weeratunga’s involvement in the controversial MiG deal, following a request made to the court by the FCID currently investigating the case.
Weeratunga is alleged to have committed financial fraud during the purchase of several MiG Aircrafts for the Air Force during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s term. Reports say he is residing in Ukraine. However during Rajapaksa’s visit to Thailand mid this year, Weeratunga flew to meet the former President. Weeratunga, is Rajapaksa’s first cousin.
The controversial MiG 27 deal was first revealed by Sunday Times Defence Correspondent and Senior Journalist Iqbal Athas in December 2006 and further exposed in The Sunday Leader then edited by murdered Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
It was revealed in the front page report of The Sunday Times dated 03.12.2006 that four MiG 27s purchased in 2006 had been on the market for several years. They had lain in disuse since 1991 and were repaired by Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant before being sold to Sri Lanka. In fact, in 2000, three of these planes had been rejected by SLAF on two different occasions.
Firstly on May 25, 2000, when the SLAF purchased four MiG 27 aircrafts at US$ 1.5 million each, and next on October 24, 2000 when two more MiG 27 aircraft were purchased for US$ 1.6 million each. Thus, it appears that these very same MiG 27 aircraft had earlier been rejected by the SLAF in 2000 were purchased in 2006 at a cost of US$ 2.462 million each.
On the basis of The Sunday Times news report on March 11, 2007 Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi, two key minsters who broke away from the Rajapaksa government made complaint to the Bribery Commission alleging corruption part of the Presiden’ts brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Following the complaint the Ministry of Defence issued a statement on March 22, 2007, titled “MiG 27-Inside Story”. This statement is false in many aspects. On of the main issues is the MOD refers this procurement is as a deal between the producer government ( Ukraine ) and the Government of Sri Lanka. This statment is false for the following reasons. Ukrinmash from SLAF purchased these aircrafts is the self-supporting Foreign Trade Investment Subsidiary of UKPSPETSEXPORT – the State company responsible for the export of military products. Such organisation does not fall within the parameters of a government to government contact.
Under a Government to Government deal, monies must be paid to the relevant bank account of the Government or a Government Institution. The MiG purchase monies were not paid to a bank account of ukrimash in Ukraine either. Instead payments were made to the account of UK company named Billimissa Holdings. Belimissa Holdings Limited is a party of the contact sign by the MOD. So the MOD is deliberately lied to the public to cover up this fraud. However, Interpol Headquarters in 2015 confirmed that there was no company called Bellimissa Holdings Limited in the United Kingdom.
Weeratunga, was the main broker of the MiG Deal.