Sri Lanka slaps travel ban on former central bank chief

A person holds a placard demanding Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign after his government lost its majority in the parliament, amid the country's economic crisis, during a protest near to a road leading to the parliament building in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 5 April, 2022.

A Sri Lankan court on Thursday placed a travel ban on the country's recently resigned central bank chief following allegations he is responsible for the island's crippling economic crisis.

The magistrate in Colombo ordered Ajith Cabraal, who quit on Monday, to appear in court on 18 April to answer a complaint against him. The court asked immigration authorities not to allow him to leave the island after a rights activist filed a petition against him.

Cabraal, who was handpicked to lead the bank by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was responsible for Sri Lanka's acute foreign exchange shortage and other financial woes, activist Keerthi Tennakoon argued.

Tennakoon told the court the former bank chief was also responsible for insider trading when he led the institution between 2006 and 2015. He was appointed to a new term in September last year.

Cabraal quit on Monday a day after the cabinet resigned en masse except Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president's brother. A replacement has yet to be appointed.

Senior government figures have accused the banker of misleading President Rajapaksa and preventing Colombo from seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund at an earlier date.

Last month the government said it will finally go to the IMF for help but talks are yet to begin.

Cabraal previously insisted he had a homegrown solution to boost foreign reserves, but the government has now run out of dollars to pay even for essential supplies.

The former bank chief was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.