Government seeks deportation of Udayanga | Sunday Observer

Government seeks deportation of Udayanga

Officials of the Attorney Generals Department, Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are working with their UAE counterparts in arranging the deportation of Udayanga Weeratunga, to Sri Lanka, highly placed sources told the Sunday Observer.

“Given the circumstances, and in particular because Weeratunga doesn’t have any legal entitlement to remain in the UAE, deportation is the suitable remedy and not extradition,” he said.

Accordingly, a formal request to the foreign ministry of the UAE was sent last Wednesday, through the Secretary of the Ministry Foreign Affairs, on the advice of the Attorney General’s Department and has been formally handed over to UAE authorities by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the UAE. If a wanted person has a legal right to remain in the country in which he is found, then the process to be adopted to get him down to face prosecution is extradition. But, where a wanted person has no entitlement to remain in the country in which he is found, then the process is to seek his deportation or ask for his expulsion, both being similar processes.

Under the given circumstances the most suitable option is to seek Weeratunga’s deportation provided the business visa issued on him has been affixed to a passport which is invalidated by the Sri Lankan authorities.

The first warrant issued against Udayanga Weeratunga was as far back as October 2016. The authorities with Interpol and UAE officials finally arrested him in Abu Dhabi last week.

“Senior government officials are now engaged in discussing technicalities associated with getting Udayanga Weeratunga back to Sri Lanka to have him produced before the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court with regard to the fraud associated with the MIG fighter jets in 2006 amounting to US $ 7.4 million,” a highly placed official explained to the Sunday Observer.

Authoritative government sources confirmed to the Sunday Observer, early last week, that following an in-depth multi-jurisdictional partnership Udyanga Weeratunga was arrested last Saturday, March 24 and was detained in Abu Dhabi.

Weeratunga, a first cousin of the former President, Mahinda Rajapakse, whose regime was renowned for appointing family members and friends to top official posts, appointed him as the ambassador for Russia. He presented his letter of Credence to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin on the November 16, 2006.

With the FCID opening investigations for allegedly pilfering public funds amounting to a staggering 7.4 million US dollars, the first warrant was issued against Weeratunga in 2016. Weeratunga who has been evading arrest, finally left Russia to the UAE with the intention of entering the US. However, it still remains indefinite as to when Weeratunga will be brought back to Sri Lanka to continue with the investigations and legal proceedings. But officials remain optimistic saying, “‘We will push for extradition and fight the case.”

On February 4, based on a blue notice, UAE officials apprehended Udayanga Weeratunga. However, he was not arrested and detained.

According to an FCID official, there was a technical glitch that prevented him from being arrested.

“That was based on an Interpol blue notice, which means it was only to trace him. Therefore, there was a technical issue in arresting and detaining him. They located and stopped him and took a record and released him on the condition that if and when informed he should report to the authorities. It was only later that the red notice was issued on which he was arrested,” he explained.

Subsequent to this incident, Weeratunga posted on his Facebook account saying that he was released by the UAE officials and he would not return to the country as the current government is on a path of political revenge. Further, he had refuted all allegations against him.

However, when the FCID first made an application before the Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayarathne to issue a warrant, it was rejected on the grounds that he was not explicitly not named as a suspect, hence there were no sufficient grounds to issue an international warrant through Interpol.

Meanwhile Weeratunga, last week filed a Fundamental Rights Petition through his mother-in-law Latha Indrani, as his Power of Attorney, seeking court’s intervention to issue an Interim Order to recall the warrant issued for his arrest by the Colombo Fort Magistrate.

The matter has been fixed for support on May 11, before Supreme Court Justices Vijith Malalgoda and Murdu Fernando. 

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