Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son, Lieutenant Yoshitha Rajapaksa was arrested following questioning at the Sri Lanka Navy Headquarters in Colombo, carried out by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) earlier yesterday, under the Money Laundering Act, at the Carlton Sports Network (CSN), a private company allegedly linked to him, and remanded in custody for two weeks, police and court officials said.
Rajapaksa’s media secretary, Rohan Welivita was also among those arrested and remanded yesterday. Before taking up the job as spokesman for Rajapaksa, he had been a director and chairman of CSN.
Also former CEO of the Carlton network Nishantha Ranatunga, who was the former Secretary of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), was the Chief Executive Officer of CSN and has also been charged in connection with the case.
He is a younger brother of Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who is the Ports minister under present President Maithripala Sirisena.
He was questioned regarding alleged financial irregularities at the television channel.
The other two men who were remanded were directors of te CSN – Savithra Dissanayake and Ashan Fernando.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa told reporters after his son was taken away in a prison bus that the arrest was to seek revenge from him.
The former president came out of the Kaduwela court house in tears and accused the authorities of making a “vague, one-line allegation,” while his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse accused Sirisena of being “worse than Hitler.”
“I don’t mind this if my son has done anything wrong, but I know he is innocent,” president Rajapaksa told reporters at the court house. “They are trying to take revenge from me,” Mahinda Rajapaksa alleged.
Police had stepped up security at the court house with Special Task Force commandos as well as reinforcements from nearby police stations.
The arrests followed months of investigations into the CSN station which is accused of illegally using government equipment and vehicles for its daily operations and failing to pay billions of rupees in taxes.
- Yoshitha becomes the closest family member of the former leader to be arrested.
- In April, the FCID arrested Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil who had been Economic Development minister under his brother.
- Another brother Gotabhaya, a former defence secretary is fighting in court to prevent his arrest.
Rajapaksa and his relatives controlled nearly 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s national budget during the former president’s rule that ended in January last year when he was defeated at elections by his former ally Maithripala Sirisena.
The new president has vowed to investigate allegations against members of Rajapaksa family who face allegations of siphoning off billions of dollars from the country during his nearly 10-year rule.