The Sri Lankan government has ordered a criminal investigation into alleged corruption at the state-run national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, which it claims involves "billions of dollars.”
The office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said an inquiry by a four-member committee chaired by senior lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, highlighted corruption and irregularities at the national
carrier. The report found "shocking details of corruption running into billions of dollars" at the airline, as well as "irregularities" in its U.S.$2.3 billion 2013 deal to buy 10 Airbus
No comment from Airbus
The statement did not contain allegations of wrongdoing by Airbus and in a reaction, the Toulouse-based aircraft manufacturer said it had no comment on the Sri Lanka government statement.
The report implicated former chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and former CEO Kapila Chandrasena, for a number of irregularities and noted among other things the former chairman’s penchant for young air hostesses. The committee accused Wickremasinghe, the brother-in-law of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, of "gross abuse of power." Wickremasinghe resigned as the airline's chairman shortly after Rajapaksa, who had been Sri Lankan president for 10 years, was defeated in a January election by Maithripala Sirisena.
The defendants reject the allegations
In addition, the statement claimed that airline staff had knowingly ignored conflicts of interest with companies and individuals it hired, and that the inquiry found cases of the manipulation of contracts.
It also alleged that Rajapaksa changed the management of the loss-making airline, which is 51 percent government-owned, to ensure the purchase of the Airbus planes despite the availability of
cheaper alternatives. Rajapaksa and former government officials have rejected the allegations and said they are ready to face any investigation.
SriLankan Airlines currently has a fleet of 24 aircraft including six Airbus A340 jets, ten A330s and eight A320s. Under a deal announced in 2013, the airline bought six A330s and four A350s. SriLankan Airlines received the first of the A330s in October. A further three Airbus A350-900s will be leased, with deliveries of these aircraft starting in 2017
Nol van Fenema