A cabinet minister has told The Island that Sri Lanka's money laundering watchdog will look at the purchase of one-way plane tickets and hotel accommodation for an American ambassador, "a scandalous and unlawful transaction". Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the activity had been made public after the Central Bank, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the US consulate informed the Foreign Ministry. "There were also discrepancies between the documents and the actual names and telephone numbers, which we checked immediately," he told The Island. "This is a very serious matter, not only because of the size of the amount involved but also because it is a criminal offence to convert proceeds of crime." Mr Samaraweera said a senior official from the CBK had been directed to examine the transactions. "We did not want to wait until someone was caught red-handed," he said. US Ambassador Douglas Sondland and his wife were in Sri Lanka on a six-day trip from April 5-11. They stayed at the Radisson Maldives. The hotel was booked through Kandy Tourist Information Centre and tickets were booked for the family on Lihira Air, both in Kandy. They did not stay at the Radisson but at a five-star hotel near the airport.
Mr Samaraweera said there was no way Mr Sondland had not known about the money being used to buy plane tickets and hotel accommodation. "There's no need for the US to go to the hotel and pay cash," he said. "It was a very obvious transaction, and you wouldn't expect a US ambassador to go out and buy plane tickets and book rooms. He may have done it in his name but not in the ambassador's name." Asked if he was saying that the ambassador had been aware of what was being done, Mr Samaraweera said, "I'm saying that the ambassador knew that there was a payment made for him. He should have known."
The minister said that, in the case of Kandy, the hotel and flight tickets were ordered and paid for in cash. "If the person who ordered and paid for it is aware, then it's very difficult to say that the person is innocent." When contacted by The Island, a spokesperson for Kandy Tourist Information Centre said the hotel booking was done on April 8 and the family stayed in a room in a two-star hotel. They paid in US dollars. The spokesperson could not explain why the booking was made on the day of arrival, not the day of 0b46394aab