By Chandani Kirinde
Police were unable to trace the whereabouts of former SriLankan Airlines CEO Kapila Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, after a warrant was issued for their arrest by the Colombo Fort Magistrate on Monday, following the Attorney General directing that they be apprehended and produced in Court to face charges of money laundering.
A CID source said that the Police had visited the residence of the couple in Colombo but they were not there.
“We believe the couple is in Sri Lanka and have alerted the immigration authorities to ensure they do not leave the country,” the source said.
The Colombo Fort Magistrate who issued the arres:t warrant also imposed a travel ban on Chandrasena and Wijenayake, who are facing allegations of having accepted a bribe or commission of $ 2 million from French plane-maker Airbus as part of a deal with the company to purchase 10 aircraft for SriLankan Airlines as part of a re-fleeting program in 2013.
Details of SriLankan Airlines’ connection to the bribery scandal involving Airbus surfaced last Friday after judges in a UK court on Friday approved a record $ 3.9 billion settlement to be paid by Airbus over allegations that 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.
A CID official informed Court on Monday that they would investigate bank accounts opened using the National Identity Cards of the couple and report to Court.
Investigative material submitted by the CID to the Attorney General’s Department has revealed that a Standard Chartered Bank account maintained in the name of Biz Solutions in Singapore, whose only director and shareholder was Wijenayake, was paid $ 2 million (roughly Rs. 363 million) by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) N.V., the parent company of Airbus SAS, in December 2013. Some of the money was subsequently transferred to an account held in Chandrasena’s name in Australia and the account in Singapore was closed in 2015.
According to the judgment of the UK court, in 2013, Airbus engaged the wife of a person concerned with the purchase of aircraft from SLA through a straw company and pursuant to the engagement, Airbus employees offered up to $ 16.84 million to the company to influence SLA’s purchase of 10 Airbus aircraft and the lease of an additional four aircraft. However, only $ 2 million of the $ 16.84 million was paid.
Both the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena and a report of the Auditor General that looked into the re-fleeting of SLA had raised serious questions over the manner in which agreements with Airbus were inked.