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Yoshitha Rajapakse remanded over money laundering

Former president Mahinda Rajapakse’s second son Yoshitha Rajapakse is taken in handcuffs after being remanded in custody for two weeks in Kaduwela. Rajapakse was arrested along with four others in connection with money laundering when his father was president. (AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)
Former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse's second son was remanded in custody for two weeks after being arrested on Saturday (Jan 30) on a charge of money laundering, police and court officials said.

Navy officer Yoshitha Rajapakse, 27, was taken into custody by authorities for questioning about dealings at his private television channel, Carlton Sports Network (CSN), police said.

Yoshitha, a navy lieutenant, was taken before a magistrate court in a suburb of Colombo and remanded, a court official said, adding that four other suspects were also held along with the former president's son.

Among the four was Nishantha Ranatunga, a younger brother of Sri Lanka's World Cup winning cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga. Nishantha had been the chief executive of the CSN channel that secured broadcasting rights for all cricket matches.

The arrests followed months of investigations into the CSN station, which is accused of illegally using government equipment and vehicles for its daily operations and failing to pay billions of rupees in taxes.

Yoshitha is the closest family member of former president Rajapakse to be arrested. In April, authorities arrested Rajapakse's younger brother Basil who had been economic development minister under his sibling.

The former leader who was in court along with his wife and his eldest son Namal, a member of parliament, accused the new government of leading a witch hunt targeting his family. "This is an attempt to seek revenge," Rajapakse told reporters after his son was led away in handcuffs.

Rajapakse and his relatives controlled nearly 70 per cent of Sri Lanka's national budget during the former president's rule that ended in January last year when he was defeated at the polls by his former ally Maithripala Sirisena.

The new president has vowed to investigate allegations that members of Rajapakse's family siphoned off billions of dollars from the country during his nearly 10-year rule.

Local rights organisations have accused the government of not taking swift action to investigate corruption under Rajapakse's rule.

- AFP/de