Deportation of Udayanga: FM due to leave for Dubai today | Sunday Observer

Deportation of Udayanga: FM due to leave for Dubai today

Foreign Minister Thilak Marapana is due to leave for Dubai today as the Prime Minister’s special envoy to discuss the deportation of former Sri Lanka Ambassador to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga.

Weeratunga, who is currently stuck in Dubai, is wanted in connection with the 2006 ‘MiG deal’ in which the SL Air Force was cheated into paying US$ 14.7 million to a shell company controlled by his business associates. Weeratunga who was evading arrest by Sri Lankan law enforcement was finally apprehended in the UAE last week while on transit to the United States. His passport remains impounded.

Weeratunga faces charges of having committed financial misappropriation while purchasing four Ukraine built MIG-27 aircraft for the Sri Lanka Air Force in 2006.

The former Ambassador was placed in immigration detention in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, February 4.

Although he was released later since there was no Interpol red notice issued in his name, Weeratunga is barred from leaving that country until investigations are over, a joint release from the Foreign Ministry and the Law and Order Ministry said.

However, it is feared that he might be released today after being produced before the Magistrate, because of the law of that country and the fact only an Interpol ‘Blue Notice’ is issued.

A delegation of Sri Lankan officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Attorney General’s Department and the FCID are presently in the UAE having discussions with the UAE authorities to get Weeratunga deported to Sri Lanka to answer the allegations levelled against him.

The Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi has also retained lawyers in the UAE specialising in immigration matters to advice the Government on this matter, official sources said.

The Fort Magistrate in October 2017 issued an international warrant for his arrest on the request of the FCID.

Weeratunga in a fundamental rights petitioned filed through a power of attorney holder - his mother in law - last November sought to recall the warrant. He stated that at the time he was residing in Mekhanizatoriv Street, Kyiv, Ukraine.

At the time of his arrest, Sri Lankan authorities were tracing his whereabouts through mutual assistance of a number of countries.

His arrest was made on the blue notice issued by the Interpol. The purpose of the blue notice was to trace and locate Weeratunga ‘as a person of interest in a criminal investigation’.

Due to the law in the UAE and according to the rules governing blue notices, his continued detention was not possible, a joint media release from the Foreign Affairs and the Law and Order Ministries on Friday stated.

The FCID claims that Weeratunga was complicit in the forgery of the contract for the MiG deal, and that he conspired with people in Singapore and Ukraine to mislead the Air Force into paying US $14.7 million for goods and services, where the Ukrainian government supplier says he received only US$7 million.

The joint press release by the Foreign and the Law and Order Ministries stated the arrest warrant was issued in relation to investigations on an alleged embezzlement of public funds to the tune of US $7.8 million.

The whereabouts of this remaining US$7.8 million are unknown. An asset tracing and recovery investigation is underway by both the CID and FCID.