By Chandani Kirinde
The Attorney General’s Department yesterday directed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to obtain an arrest warrant from the Magistrate Court to arrest former SriLankan Airlines CEO Kapila Chandrasena and his wife due to their alleged links to a $ 2 million bribe from French plane-maker Airbus.
This followed investigative material submitted by the CID to the Attorney General’s Department which revealed that a Standard Chartered Bank account maintained in the name of Biz Solutions in Singapore, the only director and shareholder of which was Chandrasena’s wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, was paid $ 2 million (around Rs. 363 million) by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) N.V., the parent company of Airbus SAS in December 2013.
The details were released by the AG’s Department yesterday after it directed CID Director W. Tillakaratne to obtain an arrest warrant from the Magistrate Court to arrest and produce Chandrasena and Wijenayake as suspects on charges of money laundering in the SriLankan Airlines-Airbus re-fleeting deal. Following the AG’s order, an arrest warrant was issued by the Colombo Fort Magistrate last evening, but no arrests were made as of last night.
The AG’s actions came hours after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa directed the relevant authorities to conduct a full inquiry into allegations that the wife of a SriLankan Airlines executive was paid $ 2 million though a Brunei shell company by Airbus in order to obtain or retain business or advantage in the conduct of business for Airbus with SLA during the period from 2011-2015.
The information came to light after judges in a UK court on Friday approved a record $ 3.9 billion settlement to be paid by Airbus over allegations external consultants used by the company paid bribes in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Ghana between 2011 and 2015.
Chandrasena was appointed CEO of SriLankan Airlines on 1 August 2011 and remained in the post until January 2015.
Details of the Singaporean bank account were obtained by the CID last year after the former Minister of Justice had written to Singapore’s Central Authority, which comes under the Attorney General’s Chamber (ACG), making a formal request for assistance in connection with investigations into the Airbus transaction under the provisions of the Mutual Assistance in the Criminal Matters Act.
“The AG took into consideration the documents submitted by Singapore’s Central Authority on 5 November 2019 in response to Sri Lanka’s request. The request was for information regarding the bank account details of a company by the name of Biz Solutions. The documents submitted by Singapore revealed that there were three accounts maintained in the name of this company at Standard Chartered Bank,” an AG Department official said.
The following details were unearthed during the CID investigation:
Biz Solutions was registered in the same of Wijenayake and she was the only director and shareholder of the company.
A sum of $ 2 million (1,454,651.24 euros) had been deposited in the bank account of Biz Solutions (account no. 0107130602) on 27 December 2013 by a French company called EADS HQ/SSC FRANCE
Later some of this money was transferred to a bank account held by Kapila Chandrasena at the Commonwealth Bank in Australia (account no. 632361019170).
The money was deposited in four installments in the Australian bank between May and September 2014
100,000 euros was deposited on 8 May 2014, 100,000 euros on 7 July 2014, 200,000 AUD on 7 August 2014 and 200,000 euros on 17 September 2014.
The papers submitted to the AG revealed that SLA entered into two agreements with Airbus SAS to buy four A330-900 and six A330-300 aircraft. The agreements were signed on 16 May 2013.
The AG said that from the investigative material which was sent to the department, there is reasonable suspicion that Chandrasena and Wijenayake were paid $ 2 million either as a bribe or as a commission by Airbus and the money was directly deposited in the account of Biz Solutions at Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore. Subsequently, the money was transferred to an account in Australia, thus constituting the offence of money laundering.
The AG said that while Chandrasena was engaged in money laundering, his wife had aided and abetted the process while there were likely other persons and companies that were accessories to the crime of money laundering even though no complaints had been lodged against them so far.
The AG also said that there was also sufficient evidence to show that Chandrasena had acted in violation of the Bribery Act and instructed the CID Director to forward a set of Investigative Extracts to the Director General of the Bribery and Corruption Commission in order to consider charges against him over the SriLankan Airlines-Airbus re-fleeting deal.
The Statement of Facts prepared for the case by the UK court seen by the Daily FT showed that as Airbus only paid agents in euros, the Company of Intermediary (Biz Solutions) was required to set up a euro account at Standard Chartered Bank to receive payment.
“On 26 August 2013, the Company of Intermediary (Biz Solutions) submitted an invoice for the first $ 1 million pursuant to the consultant agreement. However, as Airbus only paid agents in euros, the Company of Intermediary was required to set up a euro account at Standard Chartered Bank to receive payment.
“In agreeing to this change, Airbus employees corresponded with a SLA Executive, using his private Gmail account and on 13 November 2013, the SLA Executive submitted a replacement invoice. Airbus received from SLA Executive a further invoice for an additional $ 1 million on 2 December 2013.
“Payment was approved by Airbus employee 1 [senior] and Airbus employee 9 [senior] (Airbus SMO) and $ 2 million was paid in euros to the Company of Intermediary 1 (i.e. 1,454,651.24 euros) on 27 December 2013,” the UK court document showed.