MiG 27 deal crash lands
Udayanga Weeratunga missing:
Former SLAF Commander grilled on massive financial
losses to the State:
Two-pronged investigation into questionable
The government is to launch an international probe to verify the
whereabouts of the island's former envoy to Russia, Udayanga Weeratunga,
who is now reported missing, while a special inquiry is already underway
to ascertain the financial loss caused to the State by the purchasing of
four MIG aircraft in 2006.
While the former ambassador whose involvement in a highly
questionable sale of four Ukraine- built MIG 27 aircraft to the Sri
Lanka Air Force(SLAF) now forms the basis of a special investigation,
the SLAF Commander at that time, Air Marshal Roshan Gunathilake was
questioned for over six hours by the Financial Fraud Investigation
Division (FFID)on Friday (27) over the extent of financial loss to the
country due to purchasing of the four MiG Flogger-D fighter-bomber
aircraft, at a staggering US$ 14,676,000.
In his capacity as chairman of a technical body that assessed the
validity of the purchase, Gunathilake had earlier ruled against the
purchase, though the deal went through in 2006.
Top police sources said, Gunathilake, the former Chief of Defence
Staff answered questions on the technical evaluations involved in the
procurement process and the basis on which aircraft that were over 20
years, were purchased by the SLAF.
Meanwhile, the Anti Corruption Committee Secretariat (ACCS)
conducting preliminary investigations on serious frauds allegedly
committed during the previous regime, has quantified the loss caused to
the State by three deals alone, to be a colossal US$ 515 million. Police
Spokesman, ASP Ruwan Gunasekara, said that the MiG 27 deal is now under
investigation and there will soon be a ' two-pronged investigation,'
looking into local and international components of the highly
Meanwhile, investigators are said to be taken aback by the damning
evidence now available with regard to the purchase of four MiG Flogger-D
fighter-bomber aircraft, purchased in 2006 at a staggering US$
The deal included the purchasing of three units, rejected by a SLAF
technical evaluation committee in 2000, headed by Air Marshal Roshan
Gunathilake, who had reportedly ruled against the purchases.
The MiG Flogger D Fighter-Bomber Aircraft Manual 2006 states that the
MiG 27 (NATO reporting names Flogger - D and J) and Indian Air Force
name Bahadur (Valiant), is designed for action against stationary and
mobile, ground and sea enemy units. They have not been used in combat
actions (excluding Afghanistan).
The contract contained a questionable condition that stipulated that
the End User Certificate should be issued to a third party, defying all
norms and procedures of government to government contracting, which was
strangely made to a London-based company that was not registered with
the British Ministry of Defence. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka purchased the
life-expired aircraft and it had transpired that the money had been
transferred to a designated third party with no bank guarantee or
The requirement of a performance bond was waived off by the Sri
Lankan Ministry of Defence at that time, reportedly for the reason that
the Sri Lankan Government did treat it as a government to government
One of the aspects seriously objected to by that technical evaluators
at that time were the fact that the MIG 27 particular model was no
longer in production, thus causing serious depreciation in value.
A unit price was US$ 2.462,000, well above the purchase price when
Sri Lanka purchased the first four MiGs in the year 2000.
It is now documented fact that three out of the four MIGs, purchased
in 2006, had been ruled out by SLAF TEC in 2000 as being unsuitable.
The rejected aviation products were offered in two different parts.
The three MiG 27 aircraft that were rejected by the SLAF TEC bore
serial numbers, 8371534688, 83712518044 and 83712518009.
It was soon brought to light that the contract had not been a
government to government transaction as claimed, as it recognised a
third party referred to as 'designated party' - a London- based company
named Bellimissa Holdings Ltd; which was authorised to collect the
payments on behalf of the seller, Ukrinmash, a subsidiary of a Ukrainian
State company named, UKRSPETSEXPORT of Ukraine.
The current investigations by the FFID are looking into the reasons
behind a purchase that had been blatantly one-sided and beneficial to
the seller and not the buyer, top sources said. In addition, questions
are being raised as to why Sri Lanka's air defence was undermined in
that manner; with a contract that was manifestly one-sided and very much
to the detriment to the buyer, Sri Lanka.
Top SLAF sources confirmed that the SLAF procurement history required
a performance bond and a bank guarantee at all times, except in one
The bank guarantee requirement had been waived off, according to top
sources, when the SLAF purchased C 130s from the British Ministry of
Defence at which point the government of UK issued a letter to the Sri
Lankan government guaranteeing the approval of a bank loan.
The MiG27s however, came with no such guarantee and the Sri Lankan
Government had released funds to Belimissa Holdings in the UK, without
Bellimissa Holdings Ltd at the time of entering into the contract was
not registered with the British Ministry of Defence and was not
traceable in the UK Company Register.
At that time, all it had was an office on the 2nd Floor, 145-157, St.
John Street, London ECIV4PY, included in the contract with the SLAF.
The FFID, it is learnt, had questioned the former SLAF Commander
whether the credentials of this purported company which lacked a
registration with the British MoD did not give rise to any concerns.
Further, there are also questions about the haste with which the
purchase was made by Sri Lanka.
The obsolete aircraft, manufactured in the early '80s and therefore
considered life expired after 25 years since manufacture, were purchased
without an End User Certificate.
End User Certificates are considered extremely important in military
purchases, as it seeks to legally prevent military purchases from
reaching the wrong hands.
In the year 2000, when the first batch of procurements was made, the
four aircraft on offer were as follows: aircraft bearing serial numbers
83712531385 (manufactured on 26.05.1982 with 746.33 flying hours
available and 18 years old), 83712534657 (manufactured on 24.02.1983
with 745.40 flying hours available and 17 years old), 83712534709
(manufactured on 25.03.1983 with 746.33 flying hours available and 17
years old) and 8371253877 (manufactured on 1.01.1984 with 744.07 flying
hours available and 16 years old).
The second offer included 83712520013 (manufactured on 13.05.1981
with 848 flying hours available and 19 years old), 83712545237
(manufactured on 07.06.1984 with 848 flying hours available and 16 years
old) and a MiG 23 bearing serial number 49065315 (manufactured on
22.06.1984 with 529 flying hours available and 16 years old.)
By the time Sri Lanka procured her second batch of MiGs to add to the
SLAF fleet, three out of the four aircraft had reached 25 years of age
and hence 'technically dead'.
The 2006 procurements include aircraft bearing serial number
83712534688 (manufactured on 10.03.1983 with 850 flying hours available
and 24 years old), 83712518044 (manufactured on 03.04.1981 with 850
flying hours available and 26 years old), 83712518022 (manufactured on
23.11.1980 with 850 flying hours available and 27 years old) and
83712518009 (manufactured on 28.11.1980 with 850 flying hours available
and 27 years old).
The first two aircraft had been overhauled as far back as 1989, and
the other two in 1991, making the risk factor high and the value,
correspondingly much less.
Irrespective of all legal and technical concerns, on 7 July 2006, the
Ministries of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, wrote to SLAF
Commander Air Marshal Roshan Goonetileke, granting approval for the
purchase of four units of overhauled MiG 27 M aircraft, the overhaul of
three units of MiG 27 M, and one unit of MiG 23 UB, of the SLAF.
According to Contract No. SLAF 2006/7/AIR (Order No. J45001) for the
purchase of four aviation products, the contract brought in a third
party, referred to as designated party, to which payments were to be
The buyer was the then SLAF Commander, Air Marshal W.D.R.M.J.
Gunathilake of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the seller was Ukrinmash, a
Ukrainian state foreign trade and investment firm and a subsidiary of
the state company 'UKRSPETSEXPORT' of Kiev, Ukraine, represented by its
Director, D. A. Peregudov.
The contract also recognised the unregistered British company,
Bellimissa Holdings Ltd, as the designated party to which payment had to
be made, represented by M. I. Kuldyrkaev. The contract provided the
purported company's address to be Bellimissa Holdings Ltd., 2nd Floor,
145-157, St John Street, London ECIV4PY.
And finally, the deal that made headlines during the time of
purchasing had become one of the most questionable military deals, now
under investigation for causing massive financial losses to the country,
besides being tainted by alleged corruption.
[Flogged by MiGs]
The MiG 27 Flogger D is no longer in manufacture. The Russian Air
Force retains its MiG 27 aircraft in the reserve with only Kazakhstan,
India and Sri Lanka having continued their use. The Indian Air Force by
then had already begun to phase out MiG 27 use and opted for a
locally-designed aircraft, Tejo.
A TEC appointed in 2006 that analysed the country's security
situation, recommended the purchase of four more MiG 27s and the
overhaul of existing ones.
Ukraine did not produce the aircraft, but exported it through
UKRSPETSEXPORT - a State company for the export of military products.
[Supply of weapons to be probed]
Deputy FM An international inquiry will soon investigate allegations
of former Sri Lankan envoy to Russia, Udayanaga Weeratunga, being
involved in the supplying of weapons to a rebel group in the Ukraine.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ajith Perera said that an
international level investigation committee will be appointed to inquire
into the allegations levelled against Weeratunga of supplying weapons to
a terrorist group in the Ukraine.
“It is a serious issue. The Ukraine Government has already made two
complaints with regard to his alleged involvement. Though under a cloud,
he has not returned to Sri Lanka or submitted his diplomatic passport to
the authorities, subsequent to his removal from the post,” Perera said.
The Ukrainian Government had informed the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry
that Weeratunga, a nephew of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had
supplied weapons to a terrorist group operating in Ukraine and had acted
in violation of norms of diplomacy.
It is learnt that Weeratunga had reportedly been involved in the sale
of assault rifles and other types of small arms, popular among rebel
Weeratunga was recalled from the Moscow mission after a nine year
stint, following Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera's directive to
recall political appointees heading Sri Lankan missions abroad.