SriLankan ponders claiming Airbus graft damages | Daily News

SriLankan ponders claiming Airbus graft damages

The government is considering ways of recovering damages, including claiming compensation from France’s Airbus SE, after the plane-maker admitted to bribing executives to win Airbus orders.

“The damage to reputation was enormous,” Vipula Gunatilleka, chief executive of SriLankan Airlines, said in an interview at the Singapore Airshow. “That’s why our government is looking at certain remedial action.”

Airbus, two weeks ago, admitted illegally trying to sway plane sales and agreed to a record US$4 billion bribery settlement.

That included bribing the wife of former CEO Kapila Chandrasena of SriLankan Airlines, who received US$2 million through a Brunei shell company, according to the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office.

Following the settlement, SriLankan prosecutors said Chandrasena and his wife, Priyanka Niyomali Wijenayaka, were suspects in a money-laundering case linked to Airbus aircraft sales. Chandrasena and his wife have been refused bail after being hauled into court and are in remand custody until February 19.

“It was shocking,” Gunatilleka said. “When you hold a public office, you expect people to be credible. That trust was breached.”

An attempt by the Sri Lankan government to sell a 49-percent stake in the carrier seems to be off the table, Gunatilleka said. The airline is restructuring, and that should be enough to revive its fortunes, he added.

“The previous government wanted to do it, but I don’t think they had a clear strategy,” Gunatilleka said.

Sri Lanka revived the process of privatising the state-run carrier that is saddled with at least US$1 billion of debt in 2018, a year after talks with sole bidder TPG Capital collapsed following due diligence of the struggling airline.

(Bloomberg/The Standard)

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