Sri Lankan opposition files graft complaint against former president

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa reacts during his final rally ahead of presidential election in Piliyandala in this January 5, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

By Shihar Aneez COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's Marxist opposition filed a corruption complaint on Tuesday against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his relatives and asked the anti-graft body to prevent them from leaving the country. Rajapaska was defeated in an election on Thursday after a campaign that focused on misuse of public funds, and on his powers and those of his family members, many of whom held public office during his decade in power. Having lost his presidential immunity along with his bid for a third term, Rajapaska has also been asked to appear in court on a separate matter, a request that would have been unthinkable just a few days ago. The Janatha Vimukthi Peremuna's (JVP) complaint includes allegations that he mishandled state funds in his capacity as finance minister in an administration seen as rife with graft and nepotism. "The main objective of the complaint is to prevent them leaving the country. The head of the Bribery Commission has the authority to temporarily impound their passports until they investigate the charges," JVP lawmaker, Vijitha Herath, told Reuters. The JVP also filed a complaint against former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal for managing public funds in an arbitrary manner in number of instances including investing in Greek bonds before the financial crisis in that country. "This is all rubbish. All these cases have been heard and dismissed by the Supreme Court. They just want to harass us," Cabraal told Reuters. Many of the decisions by the Supreme Court, led by a Rajapaksa ally, have now been questioned. Neither Rajapaksa nor any members of his family were immediately available for comment. Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, the Secretary of the former leader's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) said he has was unaware of the allegations. Herath said the ex-president's brother and former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who left for a trip to the United States soon after the election, is alleged to have used his ministry funds for the presidential campaign. Another younger brother and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who oversaw the military defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists in a 26-year war, is accused of giving away government land for private use, Herath said. He also said there are valid official documents to prove that the former president's son, parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa, had inflated the cost of a water drainage project in his Hambantota constituency to $277 million from $120 million. "For most of the allegations we have documented proof. During the investigations, we will produce the documentary evidence for all the charges," Herath said. (Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Louise Ireland)