Former SriLankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kapila Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, who were arrested on money laundering charges, were remanded until 19 February by Colombo Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake yesterday.
The couple surrendered to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) last morning and statements were recorded from them before they were produced before the Magistrate. Police had been on the lookout for them since an arrest warrant was obtained on the directive of the Attorney General on Monday.
A travel ban is also in place against 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 under 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.
The CID also set up a special team to track the foreign bank accounts maintained by the duo while Police had also started collecting information on bank accounts opened using the national Identity cards of the couple.
Chandrasena was appointed CEO of SriLankan Airlines on 1 August 2011 and remained in the post until January 2015. During the constitutional coup from October-December 2018, he was reappointed SriLankan Airlines Chairman.
Investigative material submitted by the CID to the Attorney General’s Department has revealed that the Standard Chartered Bank account maintained in the name of Biz Solutions in Singapore, the only Director and Shareholder of which was Wijenayake, was paid $ 2 million (around 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 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 about the manner in which agreements with Airbus were inked.