SriLankan Airlines’ ex-boss held over $2m Airbus fraud

Kapila Chandrasena
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Updated 08 February 2020

SriLankan Airlines’ ex-boss held over $2m Airbus fraud

  • Wijenayake allegedly received $2 million in 2013 to ensure that Sri Lanka bought airplanes from Airbus

COLOMBO: Kapila Chandrasena, former CEO of SriLankan Airlines — his country’s national flag carrier, has turned himself in to local police in a $2 million graft scandal involving French aircraft producer Airbus.

Chandrasena and his wife, Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayake, were arrested on money laundering charges on Thursday and remanded until Feb. 19 by the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court.

Their arrest warrants were issued by the attorney general, who named them as suspects in the case revolving around a deal between SriLankan Airlines and Airbus.

Wijenayake allegedly received $2 million in 2013 to ensure that Sri Lanka bought airplanes from Airbus. The order was canceled when a new Sri Lankan government took office in 2015.

Findings from the UK Serious Fraud Office said Airbus had hired Wijenayake as its intermediary and misled UK export credit agency UKEF over her name and gender, while paying $2 million to her company.

Sri Lanka’s Tourism and Aviation Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said in Parliament on Friday that the government is keen to stamp out corruption and will do its best to compensate people properly for any losses. He added that the previous government had set up a presidential commission to deal with the SriLankan Airlines case, but that it was not “properly pursued.”

Last week, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka would conduct “a comprehensive investigation into reports of allegations over financial irregularities after Airbus agreed to settle a corruption probe with regulators.”

SriLankan Airlines has long been a loss-making institution. Between 2009 and 2019, the airlines lost Rs240 billion (roughly $1.3 billion) according to the 2019 Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Enterprises.

Sri Lanka was among the countries whose officials were mentioned as having allegedly received bribes in Airbus’ $4-billion settlement with European and US authorities last month.

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Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi minister: OPEC+ will take responsible approach to virus

  • Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Tuesday he was confident that OPEC and its partner oil-producing nations, the so-called OPEC+ group, would respond responsibly to the spread of the coronavirus.

He also said Saudi Arabia and Russia would continue to engage regarding oil policy.

“Everything serious requires being attended to,” the minister, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, told reporters at an industry conference in Riyadh.

An OPEC+ committee this month recommended the group deepen its output cuts by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.

Saudi Arabia supports the further oil production cut, but Russia is yet to announce its final position on the matter.

The minister said he was still talking with Moscow and that he was confident of Riyadh’s partnership with the rest of the OPEC+ group.

“We did not run out of ideas, we have not closed our phones. There is always a good way of communicating through conference calls,” he said.

Regarding the coronavirus, which has impacted OPEC member Iran, he said OPEC+ members should not be complacent about the virus but added he was confident every OPEC+ member was a responsible and responsive producer.

The flu-like SARS-CoV-2 virus, which first broke out in China, has now spread to more than 20 countries.

“Of course there is an impact and we are assessing, but we’ll do whatever we can in our next meeting and we’ll address that issue,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said at the same industry conference.

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser on Monday said he expected a short-lived impact on oil demand.

“We think this is short term and I am confident that in the second half of the year there is going to be an improvement on the demand side, especially from China,” he said.

Oil climbed on Tuesday as investors sought bargains after crude benchmarks slumped almost 4 percent in the previous session, although concerns about the global spread of the virus capped gains.