Jaliya pleads not guilty in US court | Sunday Observer

Jaliya pleads not guilty in US court

Former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US and Rajapaksa kinsman, Jaliya Wickramasuriya surrendered to a US District Court on Tuesday, January 29, and pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment including money laundering, wire fraud and visa fraud, the Sunday Observer learns.

The former Sri Lankan diplomat who served as Envoy to the US from 2008-2014, was arraigned on five counts.The case was taken up on Tuesday, before US District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

Wickramasuriya was represented by Kaitlin Konkel Esq. of Arnold Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, Danny Onorato of Schertler and Onarato LLP, Stuart Sears of Schertler and Onarato LLP and Amy Jeffress of Arnold Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

A US Grand Jury indicted Wickramasuriya in May 2018 and the former Sri Lankan ambassador had been a fugitive in the country where he holds permanent residency since October 18, 2018.

He continues to evade arrest in Sri Lanka where he faces similar charges pertaining to the purchase of the same property in Washington DC during his tenure as Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US.

The case marks the first time that a foreign head of mission has been indicted by the US Government. It is also the first time a Sri Lankan Ambassador has been prosecuted in a foreign jurisdiction.

Earlier this month, the Sunday Observer reported an email exchange between Wickramasuriya’s attorneys in the US and his counsel in Sri Lanka, revealing that US federal prosecutors were offering the former Ambassador a plea deal in return for information on the ‘Rajapaksa regime’.

“They seem to want to use Mr. Wickramasuriya to initiate investigations into many others in Sri Lanka’s Government, both former and current,” the email from an attorney of US based law firm Schertler & Onorato, calling itself a ‘first-tier law firm in Washington for white-collar and non-white-collar criminal defense’, stated.

Wickremasuriya’s lawyer in the US, claims in the email seen by the Sunday Observer that he “would not go to jail” in the US and believes the former Sri Lankan Ambassador would “benefit greatly” if he were to cooperate with US prosecutors against other high ranking and low-ranking officials in Sri Lanka.

“Specifically, they wanted information on what they called the Rajapaksa regime and said they believed that this information was highly sensitive. They seem to want to use Mr. Wickramasuriya as a means to initiate investigation of many others in Sri Lanka’s government, both former and current,” the email from the US defence counsel to his Sri Lanka counterpart stated.

 

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