MiG deal: Ukranian cooperation
sought to find out why money was sent to account in Virgin Islands


By Shamindra Ferdinando

FM Samaraweera displaying Ukranian government complaint. Hilmy Mohamed of the Information Department looks on (Nalinda Rajapaksha)

The Sri Lankan government had sought Ukranian cooperation to inquire into the circumstances under which the previous administration acquired several MiG 27s during the eelam war IV, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said yesterday.

The minister said the government also awaited Ukrainian go ahead to dispatch investigators to Kiev to probe one-time Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia accredited to Kiev Udayanga Weeratunga’s alleged involvement in clandestine arms transactions also during the previous administration.

Addressing the media at the Information Department, FM Samaraweera said he had discussed the matter with Acting Ukrainian ambassador in New Delhi accredited to Sri Lanka. A team was ready to leave as soon as Kiev gave clearance, the minister said.

MiG 27s of the famed No 12 squadron caused severe damage to the LTTE during the conflict. Katunayake-based jet squadrons comprised MiGs, Israeli Kfirs and Chinese fighter jets.

The UNPer has alleged that Weeratunga, a close relative of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, was involved in the disputed transaction. Matara District MP Samaraweera said that the former President’s media had issued a statement on behalf of Weeratunga denying any involvement with the transfer of weapons to Ukranian nationals and the alleged killing of a Sri Lankan working in Russia.

Acknowledging that there had been a need to acquire MiGs during 2006 due to the LTTE threat, FM Samaraweera said that the previous government should explain why the payment for the aircraft had been made to an account maintained by Bellimissa Holdings Limited in British Virgin islands.

Alleging that the account had been opened just before Sri Lanka and Ukrinmash-the self-supporting Foreign Trade Investment Subsidiary of UKPSPETSEXPORT – the state owned company in Ukraine responsible for the export of military hardware, FM Samaraweera claimed that the UK address given by Bellimissa Holdings Limited was false. It had turned out to be a telecommunication shop, the minister said, adding that Sri Lanka had acquired MiG 27s during the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s tenure in 2000. "In April, 2000, the SLAF acquired four aircraft at a cost of USD 1.6 mn each. In August same year, the SLAF took delivery of two more MiG 27s at a cost of USD 1.5 mn each whereas the four aircraft obtained in 2006 cost USD 2.5 mn each.

Samaraweera challenged former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to take him to court over his latest accusations.

Vowing to bring the probe into the acquisition to a successful conclusion, Minister Samaraweera said the then External Affairs Ministry had turned a blind eye to an Ukranian government’s complaint against Weeratunga.

Showing the original complaint dated Nov. 19, 2014 received by the previous government, the Foreign Minister alleged that the Foreign Ministry had failed to take tangible action as Weeratunga was a close relative of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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