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Lankan govt to inform Parliament on Airbus deal allegations

Colombo: The Sri Lankan government on Friday will give a detailed statement to Parliament into the alleged financial irregularities in the transaction between SriLankan Airlines and Airbus following reports that the multinational aircraft manufacturer paid massive bribes to executives of the flag carrier to secure contracts.

Leader of the House Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on Thursday confirmed this while responding to a question raised by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake for details regarding the Airbus deal, and the officials who held office at the time the agreement was finalised, reports the Daily Financial Times.

The MP queried as to who the Chairman and CEO of the flag carrier were between 2012 and 2013, when the alleged incident took place, and also who was on its Board of Directors.

Also on Thursday, former SriLankan Airlines CEO Kapila Chandrasena and his wife Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, who were arrested on money laundering charges, were remanded until February 19 by Colombo Fort Magistrate Ranga Dissanayake.

The couple surrendered to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Wednesday 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.

Chandrasena and Wijenayake are facing allegations of having accepted a bribe or commission of $2 million from Airbus as part of a deal with the company to purchase 10 aircraft for SriLankan Airlines under a re-fleeting programme in 2013.

Details of SriLankan Airlines’ connection to the bribery scandal involving Airbus surfaced last week after judges in a UK court 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.

According to the judgment of the UK court, in 2013 Airbus engaged the wife of a person concerned with the purchase of aircraft from SriLankan through a straw company, said the Daily Financial Times reported.

Pursuant to the engagement, Airbus employees offered up to $16.84 million to the company to influence SriLankan’s purchase of 10 Airbus aircraft and the lease of an additional four planes.

However, only $2 million of the $16.84 million was paid.

On February 2, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered an immediate comprehensive investigation covering all aspects of the alleged transaction.

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