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Thuggish Rajapaksas used diplomatic posts towards illegal activities

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With the latest episode of Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing Sri Lanka and currently looking for either going to the United States or any of the Western countries his first cousin Jaliya Chitran Wickramasuriya is going to be prosecuted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on charges of embezzling Sri Lankan government funds.

Jaliya Chitran Wickramasuriya, a former diplomat and envoy of Sri Lanka in the US was indicted for stealing uS$322,027.35 out of US$6.6 million that was deposited to the Escrow account maintained by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington for purchasing a property to house the Sri Lankan Embassy at No: 3025, Whitehaven Street, Washington DC 20008.

Meanwhile, according to a Sri Lankan newspaper, the Daily Mirror, series of diplomatic notes were issued at the instruction of Gotabaya Rajapaksa by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo and through the Sri Lankan High Commission in Washington DC and the Sri Lankan government demanded that the US grant Wickramasuriya diplomatic immunity on spurious technical grounds without producing any evidence.

Jaliya Chitran Wickramasuriya himself also made the same argument before the Sri Lankan Supreme Court with the Attorney General and Foreign Ministry and defending him before the courts in Sri Lanka.

However, even after causing unprecedented severe diplomatic embarrassment in our relations with the United States after a series of firm rebukes by the US Embassy in Colombo, the plan backfired as both the Supreme Court in Sri Lanka and the US Courts rejected the attempts to confer immunity on Wickramasuriya, who also holds a Green Card in the United States.

The President’s cousin thereafter pleaded guilty in American courts and made a detailed sworn admission to the court of the crimes he was charged with, including specific details of how he stole Sri Lankan public funds to the tune of over Sri Lankan Rupees 110 million, what bank accounts he used and how he found ways to take loans and repay the money after he had gotten caught. The former ambassador’s confession laid waste to the several attempts by the Rajapaksa regime to protect him from punishment and cast a dark shadow over this government’s persecution of the FCID officers who had investigated his crimes and facilitate the American prosecution of Wickramasuriya.

Wickramasuriya’s Sentencing is now set for July 20, 2022, at 10 a.m. in Courtroom 9 (In Person) before Justice Tanya S. Chutkan. Sentencing Memoranda from the parties are due by July 13, 2022. Defendant Wickramasuriya remains on Personal Recognizance Bond.

US authorities commenced a detailed criminal investigation against Wickramasuriya with two counts of wire fraud, two counts of money laundering and one count of visa fraud via shell companies while serving as the Ambassador in violation of the US anti-money laundering and wire fraud laws.

Wickramasuriya was accused of falsely inflating the purchase price of the new Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington DC in 2013, by approximately US$ 332,000 violating US laws. It has revealed how Wickramasuriya forged an ‘addendum’ to the sales agreement that falsely claimed the embezzled money was paid as commissions to the real estate agents of the Embassy and the seller of the property.

As Wickramasuriya has committed a serious offence violating US laws, the US Government had requested the Foreign Ministry to re-call Ambassador Wickramasuriya immediately. He had to relinquish his duties on April 15, 2014.

Considering these facts, on October 20, 2017, the US State Department sent a sensitive Diplomatic Note No: 756, to the US Embassy in Colombo under the caption: ‘Immunity Waiver Request for Jaliya Wickramasuriya to facilitate prosecution by the US Attorney’s Office in Washington DC’. This note was to be delivered to the host government (Sri Lanka) officials.

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