By Ahimsa Wickrematunge –
When I first heard the phrase “MiG deal” as a kid in 2007, I never expected that less than two years later, the printing of those two words in my father’s newspaper would lead to my standing over his open grave on the darkest day of my life. It has long been clear to me, and to all those familiar with the evidence, that had my father not exposed the MiG deal in The Sunday Leader, he would still be alive today, still writing, still exposing wrongdoing, still standing tall against the powers that be. He knew the risks of exposing a man who cherished his holier than thou public persona, but the risk did not stop him from doing his job.
Today, even 12 years after his death, many people remain unfamiliar with the facts of the MiG deal. As I seek to persuade Sri Lankans that it is in the national interest that my father’s killers be brought to justice, it may help to explain the MiG deal in simple terms. The exemplary work of a handful of Sri Lankan detectives has left little to the imagination. As the cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I cheat and try to explain the MiG deal with both a picture and a thousand words. Here goes.
In January 2006, the Air Force Commander, Donald Perera wanted to call for an open tender to buy bombers for the Sri Lanka Air Force to fight the LTTE. The following month, a gaggle of Ukrainian officials and Singaporean businessmen came to Sri Lanka with Udayanga Weeratunga. The Ukrainians and Weeratunga met with then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. After the meeting, the plan to call for an open tender went out the window and the only offer solicited to buy bombers for the Air Force was that from the Ukrainian firm Ukrinmash brought to Sri Lanka by Udayanga Weeratunga.
As the deal was finalized, Weeratunga dealt directly with the Air Force on behalf of the Ukrainians, even after he was appointed Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Russia and Ukraine in June 2006. While Ukrinmash was a company owned by the Ukrainian government, and the Defence Ministry justified not calling for tenders on the basis that the MiG deal was a “government-to-government transaction”, the contract signed between the Air Force and Ukrinmash, said that all payments for the MiG bombers and overhaul services had to be made to a private company with an address in the United Kingdom, Bellimissa Holdings Limited.
Per the terms of the contract between the Air Force and the Ukrainians, Sri Lanka paid Bellimissa a total of $14,661,944.24. As far as Gotabaya Rajapaksa was concerned the MiGs arrived, the job was done, the agreed amount of money was paid and that was that.
But journalists smelled a rat. It was Iqbal Athas of the Sunday Times who first reported in 2006 that something was fishy about the MiG deal. He pointed out that the Air Force had paid $2.462 million per MiG in 2006, twice the price that was paid for similar aircraft in 2000 by the Kumaratunga government. In a series of articles in 2007, my father’s newspaper probed even deeper, proving that Gotabaya Rajapaksa was directly involved in the decision to go with the Ukrainians instead of a tender process, exposing the involvement of Weeratunga and the Singaporeans and devastatingly revealing that there was no company in the United Kingdom called Bellimissa Holdings.
My father was on the cusp of putting all the pieces together when he was killed in 2009. It was nearly a decade later that police investigators finished the job and vindicated him with a breathtaking multinational effort involving evidence shared by the governments of Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.
It turns out that in the records of Ukrinmash, there was no trace of any “government-to-government” deal with Sri Lanka for the MiGs. The Ukrainians had sold the MiGs to a company in Singapore called D.S. Alliance, who claimed to be acting on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka. D.S. Alliance had paid the Ukrainians not $14,661,944.24 but half that sum: $7,833,000. D.S. Alliance was owned by a Singaporean medical equipment mogul named Lee Thian Soo, whom my father exposed in his investigations.
It turns out that the mysterious Bellimissa Holdings was a shell company in the British Virgin Islands owned by the same Lee Thian Soo and his brother Lee Thian Bock. Lee Thian Soo’s wife, Ng Lay Khim, was a director of the company and his personal lawyer, Lim Kim Lark, was the company secretary. The shell company was used to hide the involvement of the Lee family and D.S. Alliance from Sri Lankan officials, because they had been blacklisted by the Air Force.
This is the crux of the MiG deal:
The Singaporean Lee family paid $7,833,000 to Ukrinmash for goods and services to be given to the Sri Lanka Air Force
The Sri Lanka Air Force unwittingly paid the Lee family $14,661,944.24 for those same goods and services, an 87 per cent markup
The Sri Lanka Air Force received the goods and services they were promised, and thus they were none the wiser to the scam
So, what happened to the 87 per cent commission of $6,828,944.24 that the Singaporean Lee family made off with? Sadly, Gotabaya Rajapaksa shut down the police investigation into the MiG deal before they could get to the bottom of it but they were able to trace some of the money.
At least $400,397 was wired from Singapore bank accounts controlled by the Lee family to an account of the Gampaha branch of Commercial Bank held by a wastewater engineer you may have never heard of named Lelum Duminda Mannamperuma. He is married to the sister of the infamous Udayanga Weeratunga, which is to say that they are brothers-in-law.
Sri Lankan detectives traced at least another $80,000 in suspicious transactions to the account of Weeratunga’s brother-in-law but it looks like they were not able to confirm their link to the MiG deal before their investigation was shut down. What they were able to do, however, is trace what Mannamperuma did with most of the money.
At least $324,971.66 was wired by Mannamperuma to a real estate developer in Dubai called Star Giga Establishment as a down-payment to purchase penthouse apartment number 3403 at a condominium complex in Ajman called Goldcrest Views 2. The buyer of record for the apartment was Udayanga Weeratunga. The proof of the pudding is that when the Dubai police found and arrested Weeratunga in 2018 to extradite him to Sri Lanka, they put the cuffs on him in this very apartment.
So that is the MiG deal. Sri Lanka paid an 87 per cent commission to Singaporean wheeler dealers to buy arms and services used to defeat the LTTE. The Singaporeans paid at least $400,000 as a kickback to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s cousin Udayanga Weeratunga, which we know that he used to buy himself a penthouse in Dubai. It looks like a good chunk of the remaining $6,428,547.24 made its way to accounts controlled by prominent Sri Lankans. Someday, if investigations are allowed to resume, we may find out for certain who exactly pocketed these bribes.
There is a Rajapaksa brother affectionately known as Mister Ten Percent. Had my father lived to finish his sleuthing and testify in court, Sri Lankans would have realized that another brother deserved the moniker Mister Eighty Seven Percent. Until the evidence proves otherwise, I remain convinced that this is why evil men decided that my father had to die.
leelagemalli / January 8, 2021
The fearless journalist who revealed the MIG deal (that costed 14 millions of dollars to the statee) and the huge losses made to the country, was brutally assasinated, but the man who was alleged to be the man to have perpetrated the crimes is scot free. Udayaga Weerathunga was a criminal that Interpole searched for. If the man would have been not related to Rajapakshes, would he be able to enjoy the life today.
This is the reason why we SRILANKENS should get together to STAND against RAJAKSHES high crimes.
Not just WAR crimes but also in the post WAR period, what MR adminstration was busy was with loots and numerous kind of crimes. Srilanken legal system is well aware of LEVEL of the crimes, but ELEPHANT IS IN THE ROOM – nobody notices it – this is the nature of CORRUPTION ramphant srilanka – BUILT BY Medamulana uncultured bastards.
leelagemalli / January 9, 2021
This country has turned out to be a dangerous country as of today.
They are called buddhists but their reactions are like that of barbarians.
GATAM / January 9, 2021
Don’t mix things up. There are 2 different things here.
* MiG jets were well worth the price. (SU-25 would have been better though).
* Corruption of the MiG deal by Gota, etc. was a waste to the country.
Entire $14 million was not a loss. 6 MiG jets were purchased. You can’t purchase 6 working jets so cheap elsewhere. They bombed Tamil terrorists. Kfir jets could carry just one 1 MT bomb and 2 bombs of 0.5MT (and 2MT smaller bombs). Mig-27 carried 4 of 1 MT bombs or 8 of 0.5MT bombs. And MiGs also carried fuel air bombs that were very effective. They also carried cluster bombs. No other plane in SLAF could do it. It is well worth it. These jets played a major role in winning the war.
But SLAF should have purchased the SU-25 bomber instead. It can carry 3 times more bombs than the MiG. That would have killed even more terrorists. Corruption in the choice of plane too!
But the corruption over the deal costed the country dearly. The corruption was around $400,000. Totally unacceptable. It should not have happened. Killing Lasanatha to cover up the corruption is bad. Should not have happened.
Dinuk / January 8, 2021
Ahimsa, thanks for keeping this matter alive and may you find peace from the trauma and wound’s of your dear fathers death.
The plain truth is that Sri Lanka has a love-fest with Ukraine– brokered by the CIA!
Joe Biden’s son was running an oil company in Ukraine after the CIA staged a coupe in that post-Soviet republic to get it away from Putin.
Ukraine is a US proxy – and Udayanga very likely in the pay of the CIA. Ukrainian ship’s captain was implicated in the Senadihpathi Avant Guard scandal was to set up a US shipping hub in the Indian Ocean for its war machine. Senadhipatti has a holiday in LA with Mr. 10 percent and other WIjedasa Rajapaksa all part of the deal!
Recently Ukraine shipped containers of Agrochemical waster in December 2020 and now Covid-19 bio-terrorist tourists to Sri Lanka with love from America when the US manufactured Fall Army Worm is destroying crops and Bird Flu virus made in a US lab destroying the FOOD SECURITY of South Asia…
So its wheels within wheels. The Mother of all democracies has 800 military bases all over the world and has staged so many coups, assassinations, etc all over the world.
Raj-UK / January 10, 2021
I am a bit confused. Are you saying that Biden’s son (although it was Trump who was in power at the time & had him investigated but was unable to prove any conspiracy) was part of a CIA plot to influence the Ukrainian govt. in order to create world chaos, which as a result, SL ended up with toxic chemicals, prostitutes & infected tourists? In this scenario, where does the Rajapakse regime stand, apart from being ‘influenced’ by the CIA operative Udayanga Weerathunga?
Ajith / January 8, 2021
I don’t know Ahimsa is your birth name but it is appropriate name for a woman who stand for justice like many other women who lost their love one’s for standing for truth and justice. Unfortunately, majority of Buddhist Sinhala who has the power to stand for justice for victims are on the side of the murderers.
Mig deals is a big deal for the murders. It is not only one deal but there are lots of deals that affect this country and people are ignored by the Maga Sangha and majority Buddhists of this country.
GATAM / January 9, 2021
Unfortunately Tamil terrorists are not blamed by you. Be fair. Blame both. Killings were done by both parties. Corruption was done by Tamils too.
Ajith / January 9, 2021
There is no Tamil, Muslim or Sinhala Terrorists. We only have state terrorists. Killings are mainly done by State Terrorists. It is true that Corruption done by Tamils too but MIiG deals was only done by Rajapakse family.
Dinuk / January 8, 2021
The Sri Lanka-Ukraine connection with the Covid-19 infected tourist “bubble” drama unfolding in Sri Lanka has a curious history.. Check this link – the US Dems Deep State links to Ukraine Gate.. https://www.gospanews.net/en/2019/10/06/ukrainegate-an-investigative-memo-blames-joe-biden-and-john-kerry-too/
Ukraine has been a US proxy for awhile after the CIA coup with Joe Biden’s son hitting global headlines for being on the board of a Ukrainian Oil company Burissma:
1) Ukraine sent 20 containers of agro-chemical garbage to Sri Lanka December 2020
2) Covid-19 infected tourists an auspicious start for the Tourism industry in 2021?!
3) The Avant Guard arms scandle also had a Ukraine connection with a Ukraininan Ships captain jailed in Sri Lanka
4) Bellissima/ Burissma involved in some arms procurements..
Who then is paying Udayanga Rajapaksa?!
Ashan / January 9, 2021
You should do some research and check out your sources before spreading falsehoods by linking articles from conspiracy websites.
You are doing a disservice here by linking articles to these disgusting conspiracy websites, and poisoning minds.
An anti-immigration website that says it provides “Christian Journalistic Information.” The site has published pro-Russia propaganda and false claims about politics and health, including COVID-19.
Excerpt from a report about GospanNews:
“A dedicated section of the site links to articles published by Italian journalist Maurizio Blondet on his personal website, which NewsGuard has determined regularly publishes debunked conspiracy theories on health and politics. Among other falsehoods, Blondet has claimed that the 9/11 terrorist attack was a “false flag” perpetrated by the U.S. government and Jewish interests and that top Democrats run a child sex ring out of a pizza restaurant in Washington.
Because GospaNews.net frequently publishes false claims and debunked conspiracy theories, NewsGuard has determined that the site repeatedly publishes false content, does not gather and present information responsibly, and fails to avoid deceptive headlines.”
Talk about fake news!
Mallaiyuran / January 8, 2021
“Thampio Penn Thirudi, Thayaruran Pirantha Vampano Neiy Thirudum Ma mayan, Moothavano Mudichchavilsthaan!” (Younger one kidnaps women, Mother’s sibling Ghee thief, jeopardy man, and the elder one stole our, the poor’s’ bundle trusted with him. What to do, this is nature of Shiva’s family)-Iradayar.
There is a Rajapaksa brother affectionately known as Mister Ten Percent. Had my father lived to finish his sleuthing and testify in court, Sri Lankans would have realized that another brother deserved the moniker Mister Eighty Seven Percent.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) there is another 100% siblings also existing. Old King cancelled Chandrika’s $240 M Nuraicholai Contract and gave it back to same Chinese Government Corporate -company with much less benefits for Lankawe. That is the Lankawe “Maha Rajanee” company’s story.
Simon / January 8, 2021
Sri Lankan “Politicians” always “Promised” to make another Singapore style Government for the country. In reading the details of this “Mig Deal” haven’t Rajapakse & Co established that “Singapore Style” administration in Sri Lanka? Then the follow-up was the famous “CB Bond Scam” once again by a “Selected” Singaporean by Ranil W under Yahapalanaya Government. In both cases, Sri Lanka has conveniently and very diplomatically “Avoided” to “Find” or “Bring” the culprits from Singapore to face the charges. Instead, in the “Mig Deal”, the man who exposed the details of it was “Permanently” silenced, while in the other case (the Bond Scam) the main culprit is given all the protection by Singapore. Haven’t, both the main political parties “Fulfilled” their promise to make Sri Lanka a “Singapore”? So Singapore today is not what Lee Kuwan Yeo made, but fast “Coping” Sri Lanka style, a unque “MIX” of “China & Singapore”.
Ajay / January 8, 2021
Thanks Ahimsa for pulling down the pants of Gota and showing the whole world what little uprightness he can boast of. As for Udayanga, he is an exhibitionist and loves doing it himself all the time.
Good Sense / January 8, 2021
I may be a puritan or an idealist but my contention is that no body should pay through his life for being a journalist and performing his or her duties in a manner as required by the respective professional standards. I need not repeat the comments that I have made previously on this subject. I fully understand the feelings of a beloved daughter. The real issue should there be no competition then the unit price is definitely going to rise and there could be problems of quality in the supply, There are sometimes requests made by the contractor to make the payment to a different country. I wonder whether there was any audit report on this matter.
Simon / January 8, 2021
The “First” person to expose this “Mig Deal” was Iqbal Athas of Times. After Lasantha’s murder, he left the country for fear of life. Now back at the “Desk”. I notice he is “Tamed” to a great extent and was able to read a very “Co-operative” article towards “Saubagye Dekma”. I feel sorry for his situation, but that is what is “WAITING” for everyone as at the date and in the future days, months, and years to come. All “Three Piece Suite” rogues are in “Operation” with the full backing of “Task Force” of “Uniformed”, spread across the 28 Districts. All Public Servants were required to “Pledge” to uphold the “Saubagye Dekma” on January 1st, 2021. That is the “China” style of “Democracy” and “Governance”.
GATAM / January 9, 2021
You got it mixed up.
The purchase of MiG-27 jets was first reported by IA (not Lasantha) and it was all good. SL needed these planes to destroy Tamil terrorists. But the corrupt deal that went into it was first reported by Lasantha. Corruption is the bad thing here (not the purchase of these jets). If not for corruption more could have been purchased.
(These MiG-27 jets played a major role in defeating Tamils.)
SL purchased Mi-35 attack helicopters, Israeli Kfir jets, Chinese J-7 jets, tanks, ships, etc. There was no known corruption in these deals and Lasanatha and others were OK with that. Every country has the right to purchase weapons.
The problem is corruption. Lasantha bravely reported it. Well done Lasantha. Justice must be done. All culprits must be punished.
Karikalan S. Navaratnam / January 9, 2021
Ms. Ahimsa Wickrematunge
Be strong, and let your heart take courage dear child; Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light. You have been taking enough pains.
a14455 / January 9, 2021
There are no govt to govt deals in the weapons market. particularly for Sri Lanka as the Tamils had made this hard to do . only countries like Pakistan that openly supported the govt did so.
There are always intermediaries. and when there are they need to be paid. I remember being approached when I was in Singapore for a deal like this.
I am not sure there was anything exorbitant given the need of the govt position.
As unfortunate as it is that this woman’s father is dead there were more than 100k people dead. I guess the UN cares more about the elite than the average people.
Due to these weapons, the war is over. you could say another 100k or more were saved due to the Mig deal and other developments.
So sorry but not sorry.
Ashan / January 9, 2021
Good luck to you Ahimsa. It is obvious you are still in pain, especially because there is no closure for you and your family. Your poor father was assassinated for doing his job, and reporting the truth, and the criminals responsible still walk around free and living in luxury. In Sri Lanka you can get away with murder, war crimes, and corruption, if you are in the privileged family, regime, and in their inner circle.
Your perseverance, and dedication to holding those responsible accountable is impressive. Your father would have been proud of you had he not been brutally silenced. Hope one day you will find the answers, and find inner peace.
deepthi silva / January 9, 2021
This is where the utter failure amounting to a crime against the country, can be made against Ranil W.
This pretender ( economic wizard, lover of democracy, able administrator, strong man, born leader , visionary–what else ?) had a death grip on the stupid UNP’s Alice in Wonderland like Working Committee.
A good leader would have put the entire Rajapaksa clan in jail.
But RW who pretends he is plotting and planning got played out as the sucker of the century.
He got played out by Prabakaran, Chandrika and finally Rajapakses.
It seems like divine justice that a man who is always hatching plots against others, gets played out everybody.
For a long time Ranil used to place scurrilous tales about his opponents, especially those challenging him in the UNP, in news papers like the Times and Leader. Both editors were his followers.
Ranil’s plots are so fine that only he and the UNP gets caught in it
By the way , Lasantha also had political ambitions, he wanted to be a Minister in a Ranil cabinet.
Nobody in this cursed place can he holier than thou.
Tamil from the north / January 9, 2021
Ahimsa, your father Lasantha was a brave journalist who stood in the way of Ali Baba (MR) and his 40 thieves robbing this nation. The dumb people of SL voted them in again due to that lazy shithead imbecile Ranil and that gamarala bugger Sirisena’s inaction. I feel your pain Ahimsa. Nothing you do or anyone does will bring your dad back but I applaud your tenacity in trying to bring these thieves and killers to justice. Good luck and I hope somebody will listen to your cries and do something to go after these evil killers.
Buddhist1 / January 9, 2021
Its time Rule of Law, anti corruption and anti bribery loving countries should immediately place a travel ban on all those who were involved in the Mig Deal.
GATAM / January 10, 2021
They won’t. Only SL suffered from it. Others did not.
USA and US allies prefer SL buying weapons from Ukraine instead of Russia. So SL is in their good books.
(USA donated weapons to SL so no corruption there though some tried to make money on them too.)
GATAM / January 10, 2021
USA donated weapons not because they love SL but to prevent SL buying those from China. When China sells weapons, they also send their experts to maintain them.
Raj-UK / January 10, 2021
Don’t give up the fight for justice. GR’s ruthlessness in eliminating critics is becoming very open now. Even as all judicial & legal avenues are closed in SL, only the die hard fans of the Rajapakse regime are in denial, for others, no proof is necessary, the facts say it all.
SarathP / January 10, 2021
If the Yahapalanaya govt had appointed Sarath Fonseka as the Minister of Law and Order, all the Rajapakses would have been in jail. Instead, corrupt Wijedasa R. coveed up for the Rajapakse clan.
SarathP / January 10, 2021
Admire your courage and persistence. The world is shrinking for the murderers and war criminals. Few can go abroad without fear of arrest, and more will join these ranks with legal actions like yours.
On another matter, the few million dollars derived from the MIG deal shows Gota’s stupidity when it comes to theft. Elder brother Mahinda made a commission of $400 million from Noroccholai power plant alone. Eldest brother Chamal stole a couple of hundred million dollars from the Airbus deal for Sri Lankan Airlines. In comparison, Gota only managed to steal peanuts from the MIG deal.
But wait. I read that $300 million would be spent on refurbishing the Antonov planes of the Air Force. So, perhaps Gota has learnt a thing or two from his elders!