Sri Lanka probing mid-sea arms deals: minister

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka is probing reports of mid-sea sales of captured Tamil Tiger weapons to African rebels during the Rajapaksa administration, cabinet spokesman minister Rajitha Senaratne said.

The probe is part of an investigation into Avant Garde Maritime Services, a private maritime security company providing sea marshals to merchant ships for protection against pirates off Somalia.

The government is investigating the company and its floating armouries, maintained in mid-sea in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, for alleged irregularities.

Senaratne told a news conference the government was probing whether the company had engaged in illegal arms sales.

"We’re investigating how they acquired the weapons and whether arms were given to unauthorised people, whether they had links with Nigeria," he said.

"We suspect they had links with Nigeria’s Boko Harem (rebels). We have reports there had been mid -sea arms transfers."

In March the Colombo Chief Magistrate refused permission for Avant Garde chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi to travel to Nigeria on business.

Police had objected to the trip saying it would hamper their investigation into Avant Garde’s floating armoury business.

Avant Garde has maintained that the ousted Rajapaksa regime had given it permission to engage in the business of supplying sea marshals and their weapons.

The investigation was launched by the new government which ousted Rajapaksa in January’s presidential poll.





Senaratne said police were investigating allegations weapons transferred to Nigerian rebels were those captured from the Tamil Tigers who were defeated in 2009.

"In the last days of the war thousands of arms were captured or recovered. There was no proper inventory of these arms. We’re still investigating whether the inventory figures are correct."

Senarate also said the government was probing the activities of former Sri Lankan ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weerathunga, a relative of ousted former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

That probe was launched after a complaint by Ukraine that Weeratunga had supplied arms to Ukrainian rebels.

Weeratunga was recalled from Moscow by the new government but is now missing, Senaratne said.

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