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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Sri Lanka: Huge Foreign Bank Accounts Exposed

Ravi says moves underway to recover plundered billions, names to be revealed.
Billions of rupes enough to bridge 75 per cent of the Budget deficit have been illegally deposited in three countries – Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland — by leaders of the former government and top officials, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake told the Sunday Times yesterday.

He said the Government had worked out a plan to recover this money and preliminary investigations had revealed the names of the persons holding the accounts and other details.

Mr. Karunanayake pointed out the estimated budget deficit for 2015 was Rs. 521 billion and the money in the foreign accounts are sufficient to bridge 75 per cent of the country’s budget deficit. He said the three countries had cooperated in the initial investigations and the names of the account holders would be disclosed.

The Finance Minister said that inquiries were being carried out under the provisions of the Money Laundering Act and if necessary further amendments would be introduced to the Act.

He said a special team from the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) was in Sri Lanka to help in getting the money back. The moves came as the newly established Financial Crimes Investigations Division headed by Deputy Inspector General Ravi Waidyalankara on Friday filed reports in a magistrate’s court on three cases including the flawed oil hedging deals by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

A five-year-old dispute between the Sri Lankan Government and the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) over the flawed oil hedging deals ended in June 2013 with a US$ 60 million (Rs.7.5 billion) payment settlement. The payment is higher than what was allocated to some of the ministries from the annual budget. The two other cases related to alleged frauds in the Divineguma Department and in the People’s Leasing Company, a fully owned subsidiary of the People’s Bank.

The Finance Minister said three more investigations regarding major financial frauds had started, but declined to give details.

By Damith Wickremasekara /ST


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