Controversial MiG deal and the Lasantha Wickrematunga connection

Controversial MiG deal and the Lasantha Wickrematunga connection

Controversial MiG deal and the Lasantha Wickrematunga connection

Written by Lahiru Fernando

19 Jul, 2017 | 6:31 am

The controversial MiG deal, which took place during the tenure of the previous administration, has become a talking point once again.The Police Financial Crimes Investigation Division’s investigation into the deal is still ongoing.

In 2006, four MiG 27 ground attack aircraft were purchased for the Sri Lanka Air Force.

The deal also involves the repair work on three other MiG 27 aircraft and a MiG 23 aircraft.

An investigation is underway on the charge that a sum of over 6 million US Dollars was defrauded through a fake company, under the guise of a transaction between two states.

A letter addressed to then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Ukrainian state-owned enterprise, UKRINMASH on February 6, 2006, indicates that the contract for the MiG deal was first offered to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

The letter from UKRINMASH states that “there is an urgent need to supply additional fleet of MiG-27 aircraft and overhaul Sri Lanka’s current fleet of MiG 23/27 aircraft” that were supplied by the Ukrainian state-owned enterprise a few years ago.

UKRINMASH in its letter further states it looks forward to working closely with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence and offers its assistance and expertise in matters of common interest.

On the same date this letter was addressed, UKRINMASH brought the contract for the MiG deal to the attention of the Defence Secretary.

Bearing the enquiry reference number, SLAF/4/6/AIR dated February 7, 2006, the letter indicates that the Sri Lanka Air Force had made their request to UKRINMASH.

The fact that the Sri Lanka Air Force made a request on  February 7, and that UKRINMASH made an offer to the Defence Secretary on February 6, is a key factor which draws suspicion.

UKRINMASH had informed Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in its letter on  February 6, that the financial payment for the contract should be made by a financier or a third party.

However, there is no mention of a third party in the letter.

Later, when the contract was signed, it was indicated that the financier for the contract was a UK-based company, Bellimissa Holdings.

According to the contract agreement, the Government of Sri Lanka had made a payment amounting to 14.6 million Dollars to Bellimissa Holdings.

Although Bellimissa Holdings is suggested to be a UK-based company, investigations have revealed that its address and individuals are fake.This revelation was made in an article by the then Editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickremetunga on July 29, 2007.

The article further reveals that such a company does not exist at the stated address, adding that even the contact numbers mentioned, are fake.

Thereafter, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa filed a case at the Mount Lavinia District Court against Lasantha Wickrematunga and The Sunday Leader.

Weeks later, Lasantha Wickremetunga was assassinated, before he could provide evidence to court.

As investigations into this suspicious deal are still ongoing, the Police Financial Crimes Investigation Division awaits further advice from the Attorney General for a future course of action.

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