Sri Lanka detains top Rajapakse aide on fraud claims

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka has detained a senior aide to former strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse on allegations of fraud, the second official close to the ex-leader swept up in a blitz on corruption.

Gamini Senarath turned himself in to authorities on Monday (Nov 13) and will face court over allegations of fraud involving the construction of the Hyatt Hotel in Colombo.

Police told a court last month that Senarath was wanted in connection with the disappearance of US$27 million (S$36.7mil) in state funds earmarked for the hotel building.

"He surrendered to the Colombo Fort magistrate's court and was remanded till Wednesday when another hearing will take place," a court official said.

In September another close aide of Mr Rajapakse was jailed for three years for redirecting US$4 million of government money toward Mr Rajapakse's unsuccessful 2015 re-election bid.

The former top civil servant, Lalith Weeratunga, has since appealed the conviction.

Current President Maithripala Sirisena has vowed to investigate allegations that Mr Rajapakse's family and friends siphoned billions from Sri Lanka's coffers during his nearly 10-year rule.

Two of Mr Rajapakse's three sons, including legislator Namal, have been charged with money-laundering. Those cases are still pending.

Other family members face allegations of corruption. The former president himself is not under investigation.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera recently announced the freezing of US$33 million in bank deposits belonging to members of the former regime, pending money-laundering investigations.