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'The MiG Deal: Why My Father Had to Die'

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Lasantha Wickrematunge: murdered in 2009

Ahimsa Wickrematunge, the daughter of murdered journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge wrote a piece for Groundviews marking the 12th anniversary of his death and detailing why his killers have never punished. 

Lasantha Wickrematunge had been investigating a deal made towards the end of the armed conflict in 2009, in which the Sri Lankan air force was looking to buy new bomber jets. The planes supplied to the Rajapaksa regime were used to indiscriminately bomb Tamil civilians in the closing stages of the war and a portion of the money used to purchase the planes were redirected to close associates of the Rajapaksa’s.

“When I first heard the phrase “MiG deal” as a kid in 2007, I never expected that less than two years later, the printing of those two words in my father’s newspaper would lead to my standing over his open grave on the darkest day of my life," wrote Ahimsa Wickrematunge. "It has long been clear to me, and to all those familiar with the evidence, that had my father not exposed the MiG deal in The Sunday Leader, he would still be alive today, still writing, still exposing wrongdoing, still standing tall against the powers that be. He knew the risks of exposing a man who cherished his holier than thou public persona, but the risk did not stop him from doing his job.”

“My father was on the cusp of putting all the pieces together when he was killed in 2009," she adds. "It was nearly a decade later that police investigators finished the job and vindicated him with a breathtaking multinational effort involving evidence shared by the governments of Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.” 

She goes on to detail the multiple parties involved in the deal.

“This is the crux of the MiG deal:

- The Singaporean Lee family paid $7,833,000 to Ukrinmash for goods and services to be given to the Sri Lanka Air Force

- The Sri Lanka Air Force unwittingly paid the Lee family $14,661,944.24 for those same goods and services, an 87 per cent markup

- The Sri Lanka Air Force received the goods and services they were promised, and thus they were none the wiser to the scam"

    "So that is the MiG deal," she writes. "Sri Lanka paid an 87 per cent commission to Singaporean wheeler dealers to buy arms and services used to defeat the LTTE. The Singaporeans paid at least $400,000 as a kickback to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s cousin Udayanga Weeratunga, which we know that he used to buy himself a penthouse in Dubai. It looks like a good chunk of the remaining $6,428,547.24 made its way to accounts controlled by prominent Sri Lankans. Someday, if investigations are allowed to resume, we may find out for certain who exactly pocketed these bribes."

    "There is a Rajapaksa brother affectionately known as Mister Ten Percent. Had my father lived to finish his sleuthing and testify in court, Sri Lankans would have realized that another brother deserved the moniker Mister Eighty Seven Percent. Until the evidence proves otherwise, I remain convinced that this is why evil men decided that my father had to die.”

    Read the full article at Groundviews here.

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