Following a change of government in Sir Lanka, a major probe has been ordered into the national carrier, with accusations that “shocking” corruption under the previous administration may have cost the company a vast amount of money.
The Prime Minister’s office issued a statement saying the inquiry had unearthed “major security breaches” at Sri Lankan Airlines, the BBC reported.
The statement alleges irregularities in a USD 2.3 billion purchase of 10 aircraft made under the previous government. The statement also accuses the airline of attempting to “hush-up two serious flying mishaps” but gives no details.
The loss-making airline is 95% state-owned and 5% owned by staff, the BBC reports.
The assertions surrounding the airline are the newest in a number of corruption allegations against the administration of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The statement, issued by the office of Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, accuses Rajapaksa of having changed management at the airline to ensure a massive USD 2.3 billion deal to acquire 10 new Airbus planes went through “despite the availability of more cost-effective alternatives”.
Reuters reports that Rajapaksa and former government officials reject the allegations and say they are ready to face any investigation.
Sri Lankan Airlines has a fleet of 21 aircraft including six Airbus A340s, seven A330s and eight A320s.
A deal with Airbus saw the airline buy six A330s and four A350s, with the carrier receiving the first of the A330s last October.
The statement from the Prime Minister’s office contained no allegations of wrongdoing by Airbus, Reuters stated, adding that Airbus said it had no comment on the Sri Lanka government statement.
The statement said the investigation had recommended a probe into the national carrier’s “entire re-fleeting process”, It said former airline chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe, who it said is the brother-in-law of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, “should be prosecuted”.
Wickramasinghe is accused of exposing the airline to “reputational damage” by his “penchant for young air hostesses”, as well as falsifying documents to lease a luxury sports car, the BBC said.
Rajapaksa, in power since 2005, was defeated by Maithripapa Srisena in an election in January 2015.
Written by : Peter Needham