Colombo, March 20 – The value of assets seized as part of on-going investigations against immediate family members of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa exceed five billion rupees (30 million dollars), according to foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera.
Real estate and bank accounts of former president’s two elder sons and his minister brother Basil, amount to two billion rupees and money laundering investigations were underway, the minister said.
Speaking to reporters at his ministry last week, Samaraweera said 16 local bank accounts of president Rajapaksa’s close relative Udayanga Weeratunga had been frozen and the amount involved was three billion rupees.
He said Weeratunga was known to have stashed money in Latvia and Russia.
“Rajapaksa finger prints surfaced in many countries. They are found in Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Ukraine, USA, Britain, Latvia, Russia and Seychelles,” the minister said.
He said the government was keen to speedily complete the investigations, but the authorities needed more time to track the international network of the former leader.
Soon after coming to power, the government accused the former president and his immediate family of siphoning off billions of dollars from the country, but so far no evidence of cash abroad has been presented. Minister Samaraweera admitted that there was no direct evidence of any assets in the name of the former president.
President Rajapaksa has accused the government of leading a witch hunt against his family.
At the same time, there had been awkward questions about how his two sons — legislator Namal and junior navy officer Yoshitha — acquired vast amounts of wealth on the back of their modest earnings.
Yoshitha has claimed that a multi-million rupee brand-new house at Mount Lavinia was a gift from an elderly aunt who in turn claimed she got money when an unknown person left a bag of gems with her.
Similarly, Basil Rajapaksa has also claimed that a river-front house in Malwana that was being built allegedly in his name was not owned by him.
There are no claimants for the property and courts ordered the sale of the palace with a floor price of 208 million rupees. He faces a money laundering charge at the Pugoda courts.
Both namal and Yoshitha were key players at the Colombo Stock Exchange during its dizzy days in 2009 and 2010 with the duo joining the ranks of top 20 share holders of several listed companies.