News

CIABOC probes PM’s private airplane jaunt to Tirupati

  • Follows up on complaint filed by journalist 

BY Pamodi Waravita 

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) has launched a preliminary investigation into Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s trip to the Tirupati Temple in India using a private airplane in December 2021. 

The CIABOC confirmed to The Morning yesterday (8) that following a complaint received about the said trip, it has decided to conduct a preliminary investigation into the matter. 

Rajapaksa, accompanied by several family members (as seen in photographs available online), took a personal two-day tour to the Tirupati Temple in December 2021. Controversy arose over the use of a private airplane (a blue Embraer Legacy 600 business jet) for the trip, for which, according to the information available online, the average hourly rental rate is around $ 6,700.

The Morning reported at the time that the relevant Embraer Legacy 600 in question, registered in the small European nation of San Marino (which is a known tax haven) as “T7-JSG”, is one of the many aircraft in the fleet of JetSetGo Aviation Services (Pvt.) Ltd., the latter an Indian firm which provides private aircraft charter services to high net worth individuals. It is notable that Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh sits on the Board of the company as an Investor.

Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Yoshitha Rajapaksa told The Morning at the time that the provision of the jet was a gesture of goodwill as “it was given free of charge by an Indian businessman who did not wish to be named”.

According to the letter by the CIABOC that was publicised across social media yesterday, the CIABOC is launching the investigation in response to a complaint filed by journalist Tharindu Uduwaragedera on 31 December 2021.