Yoshitha Rajapaksa remanded over money laundering allegation

Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second son was remanded in custody for two weeks after he was arrested and questioned yesterday under the Money Laundering Act, police and court officials said.

Navy officer Yoshitha Rajapaksa, 27, was questioned at length at the navy headquarters in Colombo and then arrested and taken before Kaduwela magistrate Dhammika Hemapala who ordered his remand till February 11.

The police Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) had questioned four others, including Nishantha Ranatunga, who had been the chief executive officer of Yoshitha’s Carlton Sports Network (CSN), police said.

Former president Rajapaksa who was in court told reporters after his son was taken away in a prison bus that the arrest was to seek revenge from him.

"I don’t mind this if my son has done anything wrong, but I know he is innocent," president Rajapaksa told reporters at the court house. "They are trying to take revenge from me."

Rajapaksa’s media secretary, Rohan Welivita was also among those arrested and remanded yesterday. Before taking up the job as spokesman for Rajapaksa, he had been a director of CSN. The other two men who were remanded were: Savithra Dissanayake and Ashan Fernando.

 Police had stepped up security at the court house with Special Task Force commandos as well as reinforcements from nearby police stations.

 The arrests followed months of investigations into the CSN station which is accused of illegally using government equipment and vehicles for its daily operations and failing to pay billions of rupees in taxes.

 Yoshitha  becomes the closest family member of the former leader to be arrested. In April, the FCID arrested Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil who had been Economic Development minister under his brother. Another brother Gotabhaya, a former defence secretary is fighting in court to prevent his arrest. 

Rajapaksa and his relatives controlled nearly 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s national budget during the former president’s rule that ended in January last year when he was defeated at elections by his former ally Maithripala Sirisena.

 The new president has vowed to investigate allegations against members of Rajapaksa family who face allegations of siphoning off billions of dollars from the country during his nearly 10-year rule.

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