Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has accused Singapore of sheltering Arjuna Mahendran – one of Sri Lanka’s former central bank chiefs who is believed to be involved in a S$74 million insider trading scam.
In a statement on Monday (18 Mar), Sirisena said that he appealed to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong two months ago (Jan 2019) to return Mahendran – who is now a Singapore citizen – back to Sri Lanka.
Sirisena lamented that PM Lee promised that he will take action but nothing has been done. Revealing that Singapore isn’t returning his calls either, Sirisena said: “He assured me that whether the person is a Singapore citizen or not, they will take action. Sadly, up to now, Singapore has not responded to my call.”
The Sri Lankan President added that Interpol had issued a red notice for the arrest of Mahendran but Singapore was not acting on the request.
In 2015, Mahendran was accused of passing confidential information to his son-in-law, a bond dealer, in order to make millions of dollars in profits. Both Mahendran and his son-in-law have been accused of manipulating bond auctions in 2015 and 2016, thereby causing Sri Lanka to incur over S$11 million in losses.
In February 2017, Mahendran was listed as a key suspect in a multi-million dollar bond scam. A presidential report that was released thereafter accused Mahendran of insider trading and recommended that the nation recover losses from Mahendran and his son-in-law.
Failing to appear in court to respond to charges, Mahendran fled overseas. A naturalised Singapore citizen of Sri Lankan descent, Mahendran is believed to be residing in Singapore.
The case involving Mahendran has had deep political ramifications in Sri Lanka. The nation’s Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe who is Sirisena’s coalition partner, personally chose Mahendran to head the central bank in 2015.
Mahendran’s involvement in the high-profile scam deepened the acrimony between Sirisena and Wikremesinghe, that came to a head in 2018 when Sirisena plunged the nation into political turmoil by abruptly firing Wikremesinghe and installing ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister.
Following months of chaos, the Supreme Court intervened and ruled that Sirisena’s act of dismissing the Prime Minister and the Parliament was unconstitutional. Wikremesinghe was reappointed as Prime Minister after the ruling.