Sri Lanka arrests former US ambassador for graft
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s former ambassador to Washington was arrested yesterday accused of misappropriating more than $350,000, the latest member of strongman ex-president Mahinda Rajapakse’s family to be investigated for corruption in office. Jaliya Wickramasuriya, a cousin of former president, was detained at Sri Lanka’s main international airport as he tried to leave the island, an airport official said.
The police had obtained a court order preventing Wickramasuriya from leaving the country as the authorities probe financial transactions at the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington during his tenure as ambassador from 2008 and 2014. “He is accused of pocketing $345,000 from the purchase of a building for the embassy,” a police officer involved in the investigation said. He said two other instances of misappropriation were also under investigation, involving undisclosed sums.
The current government has accused Rajapakse and his family of syphoning off billions of dollars when they were in power and many of the close relatives are currently on bail pending court action. Rajapakse lost power in a snap election in January 2015 to his former ally Maithripala Sirisena who has since ordered investigations into alleged widespread graft under the former regime.