Sri Lanka to probe phone tapping of legislators

Sri Lanka to probe phone tapping of legislators

Colombo: Sri Lanka's parliament Tuesday announced an investigation into how the private phone records of legislators were leaked in a scandal that has deepened acrimony between President Maithripala Sirisena and his coalition.

Lawmakers allege their phones were illegally tapped by a commission selected by Sirisena to investigate a long-running insider trading scandal linked to the central bank.

"We must find out how this information leaked out and remedial action should be taken," said parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya as ruling party legislators accused the presidential commission of hacking their phones.

Sirisena has publicly accused politicians from his own coalition of frustrating his investigation, launched earlier this year, into a bond dealing scandal at the central bank.

The then-central bank governor Arjuna Mahendran, who was sacked in April 2016, was accused of misconduct regarding alleged favours to his son-in-law Arjun Aloysius, who is accused of causing millions in losses to the island's coffers.

Ravi Karunanayake resigned as foreign minister in August after being linked to Aloysius, a controversial financial trader who is under investigation.

The leaked phone records of 28 members of parliament, including calls made by WhatsApp and Viber, detail how several of them were also in communication with Aloysius.

The presidential commission investigating the insider trading scandal denied it ordered the phones tapped.

In a statement, it said the records were obtained from mobile devices used by Mahendran and Aloysius and information from telecom service providers. There was no explanation as to how the records were leaked.

The commission ended its sittings Monday into the scandal after hearing evidence from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Sirisena was elected after defecting from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and securing support from Wickremesinghe's United National Party.

But the allies have clashed since over economic policy and over stalled investigations into corruption under the former ruling regime.