Colombo: Sri Lankan police caught a top aide of President Maithripala Sirisena in the act of allegedly accepting a bribe from a foreign investor on Thursday, an anti-corruption official said.

Sirisena’s Chief of Staff, I.H.K. Mahanama, was arrested with some 20 million rupees (Dh465,315) he apparently received to release state land for a private sugar company, anti-graft commissioner Neville Guruge said.

Guruge said the Indian investor in the sugar firm had complained to the authorities that Mahanama and the Chairman of the State Timber Corporation, Piyadasa Dissanayake, had demanded the bribe.

“We caught them accepting the money at a hotel in Colombo,” Guruge said. “They were accepting a fifth of the (total) amount when they were apprehended.”

A police investigator said the duo had 20 million rupees in marked bills that were meant as the first instalment of a 100-million-rupee bribe.

President Sirisena ordered the immediate suspension of the two senior officers and noted that the arrests had been carried out by the independent anti-graft commission established after he came to power in January 2015.

“I am pleased that we have created an environment in which law enforcement authorities can carry out their duties without any fear,” Sirisena said in a statement.

Mahanama is the highest ranking public official to be arrested from Sirisena’s administration which had promised to end a culture of corruption.