Sri Lanka President’s Chief of Staff arrested over bribery charge

ECONOMYNEXT – President Maithripala Sirisena’s Chief of Staff  was arrested by bribery detectives on Thursday in connection with a bribery charge,  official sources said.

Chief of Staff I H K Mahanama was arrested while allegedly accepting part of a bribe from an Indian investor, the sources said.

Police sources said he was taken into custody on Thursday afternoon at the Taj Samudra car park along with the chairman of the State Timber Corporation Piyadasa Dissanayake.

The two men are said to have accepted 20 million rupees  which was meant as part payment of a 100 million rupee  bribe to help the investor speed up approvals for a land transaction relating to Kantale Sugar, a defunct state-run firm.

An investigator involved in the arrest said they had slipped 20 million in marked notes to pay Mahanama and tape recordings of his conversations with the Indian investor were also made. Mahanama and Dissanayake allegedly wanted 540 million rupees, but the Indian investor had beaten them down to 100 million rupees. The pair were arrested as they accepted the first tranche of 20 million rupees.

Mahanama had recently retired as secretary to the ministry of lands and was promoted as Sirisena’s Chief of Staff, the most influential position in the administration after Secretary to the President.

Sirisena was informed of the arrest as he chaired a meeting of other senior officials . In a statement late last night, Sirisena said he had ordered the two officials to be suspended with immediate effect.

He said he was pleased to note that law enforcement authorities had carried out their work without any fear.  

Mahanama becomes the most senior official in the Sirisena administration to be arrested in connection with a bribery charge.

Just before the local government elections in February, Sirisena had accused his senior coalition partner, the United National Party (UNP) of being more corrupt than the Rajapaksa regime. (COLOMBO, May 3, 2018)

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