Govt has knocked the bottom out of its main charge, says Prof. Peiris

Rajapaksas USD 18 bn foreign accounts



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by Shamindra Ferdinando


Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris yesterday said the yahapalana government had knocked the bottom out of its much touted allegation that the Rajapaksas had invested billions of US dollars in various ventures through Dubai-based Nandana Lokuwithana.


Lokuwithana, who had been accused of building Dubai Marriott and acquiring Steel Corporation on behalf of the Rajapaksas was now having a cozy relationship with the government, Prof. Peiris told The Island.


Had there been any basis for their accusations regarding funds amounting to USD 18 bn in offshore accounts held by the Rajapaksas, the government couldn’t have done business with Lokuwithana, widely accused of being their front-man.


Prof. Peiris alleged that those foreign governments which promised to help yahapalana rulers recover funds stashed in overseas accounts should explain their position now. In the wake of so called January 2015 revolution, the UK even provided expertise to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) and the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID).


 


The former law professor alleged that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration through the Board of Investment (BoI) had recently finalised USD 75 mn project with Lokuwithana and no less a person than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe laid the foundation stone for the tyre plant.


 


The investment spanned over a four-year period prompted the Anti-Corruption Front (ACF) to accuse the yahapalana government of laundering the Rajapaksas ill-gotten wealth.


 


Prof. Peiris referred to recent damning statements attributed to Ven Ulapone Sumangala thera, Keerthi Tennakoon and Chameera Perera of the ACF regarding mega corruption involving some members of the government and those who had been once dubbed the Rajapaksa’s men.


 


Prof. Peiris alleged that the government couldn’t speak in one voice on any issue. The controversy over radial tyre plant now under construction within the Wagawatte Industrial Zone in Horana electorate is a case in point, the internationally reputed jurists said. A section of the press recently reported President Sirisena putting on hold the project until Premier Wickremesinghe returned from Switzerland, Prof. Peiris said. Subsequently, Skills Development and Vocational Training Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe declared that President Sirisena hadn’t intervened in the project and it was on track, the former Minister said. "Who is telling the truth. Sunday newspapers carried pictures of work at Wagawatte in progress", he asked.


 


Both former President Rajapaksa and former Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa had strongly denied having any financial transactions with Lokuwithana.


Alleging that there had been numerous unsubstantiated allegations made against the Rajapaksas, Basil Rajapaksa early last year rejected the claim regarding him being the owner of the Marriott in Dubai. Dismissing claims that he owned the property through a front man, Basil Rajapaksa said that the proprietor Nandana Lokuwithana offered assistance to clear his name in case there was an investigation. Basil Rajapaksa said that he got to know the Marriott owner in the wake of the controversy over its ownership.


The same person had acquired Ceylon Steel Corporation (Lanwa) at Aturugiriya, the former Minister said, identifying the businessman as a person from the Anuradhapura district.


Prof. Peiris said that a range of concessions offered to Lokuwithana by the Ministry of Development Strategies and International Trade revealed the close relationship Lokuwithana had with the yahapalana regime. Since the BoI received the application from the investor in March 2016 for the setting up of the project to cater to both international (60 %) and domestic (40%), the government offered him unprecedented perks and privileges, the former minister said. In fact, the investor had been given 99 year lease on 100 acre land for a paltry rent contrary to all existing rules and regulations governing such projects, Prof. Peiris said, adding that yahapalana rulers had been exposed.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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