The Maldives may not be the Sri Lankan leader’s last stop.

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-13 10:55:35 : Victoria Kim

About 24 hours before the president of Sri Lanka fled to the Maldives on Wednesday, his younger brother, the finance minister, made his own attempt to leave the country.

But officials at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo stopped Basil Rajapaksa from boarding a plane out of the country. Reports in local media suggested that he was headed to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and have now fueled speculation that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will also try to make his way to the oil-rich state.

Like the Maldives, whose leaders have close ties with the Rajapaksa family, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of Sri Lanka. It is the third largest source of imports in Sri Lanka, according to the World Bank. And Gotabaya Rajapaksa had plans to visit the U.A.E., according to recent reports, to procure fuel to ease his country’s dire shortage.

If Mr. Rajapaksa ends up in the U.A.E., he would join a growing roster of disgraced leaders who have sought refuge there.

The coterie includes former President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, who reportedly departed his country with duffel bags full of cash and ensconced himself in the U.A.E., and Spain’s former monarch, Juan Carlos, who abruptly left for Abu Dhabi, the wealthy gulf state’s capital , in the midst of an investigation into his wealth.

Pakistan’s former military leader, Pervez Musharraf, and the country’s former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, both lived in Dubai for years in self-imposed exile. Two former Thai prime ministers — the siblings Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra — each made the U.A.E. home, at least for a time, after being forced out of their country, as did Muhammad Dahlan, a former powerful Gaza security chief.

For deposed leaders, the choice of where to hole up after being ousted can be determined by a number of factors, including historical and political ties between the countries, geographical proximity and, for some, extradition treaties.

The emirates, which have a reputation as a playground for the rich where few questions are asked about the sources of foreign wealth, have made for opulent bases in exile . Mr. Dahlan, the Palestinian strongman in exile, gave an interview to The New York Times in 2016 in his Abu Dhabi home, which had vaulted ceilings, chandeliers and an infinity pool.

But they are by no means the only places to take in fallen leaders. At least 52 countries have harbored one-time dictators since 1946, with the United States, France, Russia and the Britain serving as some of the top destinations, according to researchers.

As for Basil Rajapaksa, he eventually got out of Sri Lanka on Wednesday, according to local reports. His destination was the United States.

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