January 22, 2015 / 12:52 PM / in 3 years

Sri Lanka anti-graft body bars ex-central bank head, Rajapaksa ally from leaving country

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka has barred former central bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal and an ally of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa from leaving the country due to corruption complaints, officials said on Thursday.

Sri Lanka's former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal speaks during the "Road Map: Monetary and Financial Sector Policies for 2014 and Beyond" launch, in Colombo January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Both Cabraal, central bank chief for more than eight years, and Sajin De Vas Gunawardena, a parliamentarian close to Rajapaksa, rejected allegations of misuse of public funds under the previous Rajapaksa government.

Cabraal and Gunawardena said they had yet to be told of the travel ban.

“There was a complaint from the bribery commission and we have imposed a temporary travel suspension on them,” Nihal Ranasinghe, the Controller of Immigration and Emigration Department, told Reuters.

Another official from the anti-graft commission confirmed the travel ban.

Rajapaksa, widely accused of corruption and nepotism during his rule, lost his bid for a third term and the new government has started formal probes into all the financial deals under his administration.

Sri Lanka’s Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peremuna party last week complained to anti-corruption body that both Cabraal and Gunawardena had misused public funds.

It said Cabraal had misused the funds by investing in Greek junk bonds in April 2011 and lost millions of dollars in signing a wrong crude oil hedging contract in 2007. Cabraal has rejected all allegations.

JVP accused Gunawardena of accumulating wealth by misusing public funds. He has also denied the allegations.

“I have written a letter to the (bribery) commission seeking clarification and to say that I am available to be present at the commission any time,” Gunawardena said.

“Anyway, I’ve no intention of leaving the county. If I had wanted, I’d have gone by now.”

Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Nick Macfie

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