Crew members sit in a SriLankan Airbus A330 that was deployed to evacuate 33 Sri Lankan nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, and landed at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Mattala. Meanwhile, questions of bribery have come out in a London court regarding the airline's dealings with Airbus in 2013. Photo: AFP / by Handout / SriLankan Airlines /

Sri Lanka’s president ordered a fresh investigation Sunday into a multi-billion dollar aircraft purchase involving the island’s loss-making national carrier, days after Airbus settled corruption probes in Europe and the US.

A French court on Friday approved a deal allowing Airbus to pay 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) in fines to Britain, France and the US to settle corruption cases sparked by suspicious equipment sales.

One of the allegations cited in a judgement and released by a London court Friday concerned the purchase of aircraft by SriLankan Airlines.

Investigators had accused Airbus of failing to prevent persons associated with the company from bribing directors or employees of the airline to “obtain or retain business or advantage.”

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office said the president had ordered a comprehensive investigation into the reports.

Sri Lanka’s previous government also called for a criminal investigation into the 2013 purchase of 10 Airbus aircraft, but it petered out without conclusion.

Sri Lanka’s national carrier is deeply in the red, with estimated accumulated losses of $1.24 billion and debt of about $750 million.

– AFP

[Editor’s note: The above AFP news story as transmitted did not mention that the president’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, currently prime minister in the new family regime, was president at the time of the 2013 aircraft purchase. Nor did it repeat the information, which AFP had reported at the time, that immediately after the brothers returned to power late in 2019 their restored regime targeted 73 police investigators with no-fly orders, prohibiting the officers from leaving the country without permission – a powerful message carrying an obvious warning of severe consequences for anyone who might dare to bring up the questions about corruption that had swirled around the family during its previous time in power.]

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