Freezing of Udayanga’s bank accounts challenged in Supreme Court

By Chitra Weerarathne

The supreme Court yesterday gave the Attorney General, four weeks, to consider whether there was a possibility of lifting the curtailment of debit transactions, in respect of the bank Accounts of petitioner Udayanga Weeratunga the former Sri Lankan Ambassador in Russia.

Weeratunga has complained that since the first quarter of 2015, his debit transactions have been arbitrarily frozen by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. He could not withdraw his money, he has complained.

Yesterday, the fundamental rights violation petition filed by Weeratunga was partly heard in the Court. The next date was fixed for Feb. 23, 2017.

The bench Comprised Justice Buwanaka Aluwihara, Justice, Upali Abeyratne and Justice Anil Gooneratne.

President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva who appeared for the petitioner Udayanga Weeratunga, former Sri Lankan Ambassador in Moscow, told the supreme Court that the debit transactions from NRFC accounts of his client had been frozen by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka without any allegation of fraud in the drafting of the agreement to purchase two MiG Aircrafts to the Sri Lankan Air Force from a Ukraine Company. Notice of the Financial Crimes Investigations Division Complaint, filed in the Magistrate’s Court of Fort had never been served at the Ukraine address. Interpol had been directed to serve notice in Moscow and Turkey. That had been done through diplomatic channels. After less than ten days, the accounts in Sri Lanka had been frozen, the court was told.

The Magistrate did not freeze the accounts. The seizure must be on a suspicious transaction. Weeratunga had held the bank account for 25 year in Nittambuwa. There was no indication of his links to terrorism, the counsel argued.

The counsel added that the search on banks accounts had commenced in March 2015 and gone on till August 2015. But, nothing illegal hand been found. By August 2016 the FCID filed action in the Magistrate’s Court. Weeratunga could not pay demurrage for his personal belongings in a container, which was auctioned without being advertised in the newspapers, he said.

Additional Solicitor General Yasantha Kodagoda President’s Counsel, who appeared for the Attorney General, said that an order had been obtained from the Colombo High Court to freeze Weeratunga’s bank accounts. The freezing by the Director of the Financial Crimes Investigations Division Unit had been permitted by the Court. The petitioner had held 18 bank accounts, the court was told.

The petitioner had USD 1.57 million and Rs. 3.04 million in his accounts at Commercial Bank and Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. Money had come from countries such as Bahamas, known for money laundering. Hence the accounts are not clean.

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