Sri Lanka seizes car fleet 'not returned by Rajapaksa'

Sri Lankan police officers stand guard over dozens of vehicles found in the capital Colombo on 23 January 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Among the 53 vehicles found were several bullet-proof limousines

Sri Lankan police say they have seized more than 50 state-owned vehicles not returned after former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was toppled in elections.

The 53 vehicles, said to include bullet-proof limousines, are thought to be among 128 missing vehicles.

Mr Rajapaksa's decade in power came to an abrupt end in polls on 8 January.

On Thursday, the new government pledged to trace billions of dollars allegedly siphoned off by Mr Rajapaksa and his powerful family.

Various figures in his former ruling clan face accusations ranging from corruption to murder.

The vehicles, which belong to the presidential secretariat, were found on land in the capital Colombo, a police spokesman said.

"We are conducting investigations on how these 53 vehicles ended up at this yard," Ajith Rohana told the AFP news agency.

Among the vehicles was an armour-plated BMW destroyed in a mine attack in Colombo in 2006. Inside was the then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the president's younger brother, but he escaped without injury.

'Black money'

The discovery was announced a day after the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena said it would investigate all financial deals struck by Mr Rajapaksa and his brothers during his time in office.

"Black money invested in various foreign countries is going to be investigated," said cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senarathne, referring to illegal capital flight, according to the Reuters news agency.

Mr Sirisena delivered his shock defeat of Mr Rajapaksa in part on pledges to root out abuses of public money and power by the Rajapaksas, and state television has shown pictures of the presidential residence furnished in opulent style at state expense.

Mr Rajapaksa has strongly denied claims that he summoned the military to discuss ways of halting the presidential poll count and declare a state of emergency when it appeared he might lose, and says his family is being victimised.

No formal charges have yet been filed against the family.

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