Chinese firm in Sri Lanka admits funding Rajapaksa family foundation

ECONOMYNEXT – A major Chinese company in Sri Lanka Thursday said it made a "donation" of millions of rupees to a private fund linked to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s family amid allegations that the Chinese funded his failed re-election bid.

The Chinese-controlled Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT)  said it paid nearly 20 million rupees the "Foundation" of then minister Basil Rajapaksa’s wife Pushpa Rajapaksa as part of the company’s "corporate social responsibility."

The admission came after deputy minister Ranjan Ramanayake published a copy of a cheque for nearly 20 million rupees made out by CICT to Pushpa Rajapakasa’s foundation on May 21, 2012.

The Chinese company said the money was for housing the poor, but it did not identify the poor or say how many homes were to be build the money. Instead, the CICT said it did not supervise what was done with the cash.

"Once funding is allocated, CICT believes that the funding so allocated would be utilised for the said projects by the receiving agencies, without CICT having to play a supervisory role as to the implementation of such projects."

It also said that the payment to the Rajapaksa foundation was made "long after" the "project concession agreement" was signed and construction of the CICT terminal began. "We therefore categorically reject the implication that the payment is tantamount to a bribe," it said implying that any money given before signing an agreement would amount to a bribe.

The Chinese funding for the Rajapaksa foundation came shortly after the New York Times renewed allegations that the Mahinda Rajapaksa campaign received millions of dollars from Chinese state-owned companies.

Campaign donations are not illegal, but if a foreign entity is funding a political party or an individual it would amount to an external interference in local politics and could also trigger money laundering charges.

The Times also accused China of pushing Sri Lanka into a debt trap.

However, last week, the Chinese embassy in Colombo vowed to keep providing financial help, including loans, to Sri Lanka under its massive "Belt and Road" infrastructure plan.





Dismissing "Western media" claims of a "debt trap", the embassy also rejected the Times’ report about alleged corruption in Chinese projects.

However, neither the embassy nor the Chinese company concerned, the China Harbour Engineering Company, have explained the payments specified in the Times report. (COLOMBO, July 12, 2018)

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