Money laundering, wire fraud and visa fraud violations : Jaliya expected to surrender in US Court | Sunday Observer

Money laundering, wire fraud and visa fraud violations : Jaliya expected to surrender in US Court

27 January, 2019

Jaliya Chitran Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to the United States and cousin to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be arraigned on a five-count indictment for money laundering, wire fraud and visa fraud violations when he is expected to surrender to US authorities at a US District Court on Tuesday (29).

Wickramasuriya’s arraignment, when charges brought against him will be formally read out in court, has been scheduled for 10.45 am when case 1:18-cr-00120-TSC United States of America V. Jaliya Chitran Wickramasuriya is taken up before US District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan.

Wickramasuriya is no longer a fugitive from justice in the US, the court documents state, indicating that the former Sri Lankan Ambassador’s lawyers have undertaken to produce him in court on Tuesday.

A US Grand Jury indicted Wickramasuriya in May 2018 and the former Sri Lankan ambassador has 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 from 2008-2014. US Attorney Zia Mustafa Faruqui and Arvind K. Lal are the lead prosecutors for the US Government in the case against the former Lankan envoy. 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.

Wickramasuriya who was appointed Ambassador by his cousin, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was indicted by the US District Court in the District of Columbia (Washington DC) on five counts, specifically, on two counts of money-laundering and two counts of wire fraud and one count of visa fraud violation by making false declarations in official US Government documentation in May 2018.

Earlier this month, Sunday Observer reported an emails 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 the Sri Lankan 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” states.

Wickremasuriya’s lawyer in the US, claims in the email seen by 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 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 Lankan government, both former and current,” the email from the US defence counsel to his Sri Lanka counterpart said.

It was not immediately clear, if Wickramasuriya would take up the offer to provide information about his cousin’s Government, in exchange for leniency in his own case.

At his arraignment on Tuesday, Wickremasuriya will have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty against each charge he faces.