Sri Lanka is presently calculating the monies that are being invested in offshore entities, Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), President’s Counsel Sarath Jayamanne said.
Addressing the media yesterday (20), he said, the siphoning of illegally accrued monies is done with the expert help of auditors, engineers and financial experts. In most cases, the monies are deposited in offshore entities beyond Sri Lanka’s jurisdiction. “We have to enter into mutual legal assistance agreements, and other international agreements to detect these funds, with the help of the respective countries,” he added.
On the other hand, there are cases where Sri Lankans have invested illegally accrued wealth in offshore properties. Elaborating further he said, “We attended the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in Washington DC, in the United States earlier this month and with the assistance of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the US, we will be able to detect the monies that have been siphoned off to other countries and to retrieve it back to Sri Lanka.
Initially four countries were chosen; Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine, which will provide an opportunity for focal countries to identify technical assistance needs with bilateral and multilateral assistance providers. When President Maithripala Sirisena went to the UK earlier this year, he attended a related forum, where this decision was taken.
As a symbolic gesture, Nigeria was presented with US$ 300 million by Switzerland. This gesture was relevant to former Nigerian President Sani Abacha, who siphoned out an enormous amount of money during his reign.
It is believed that he has siphoned at least US$ 7 billion out of Nigeria. Most monies were deposited in certain Western countries. Some were in Switzerland as well.”
He went on to note that it is too premature to indicate an estimate of the local monies that are either invested or deposited in offshore entities. He added, Sri Lanka has to get the support of other countries and that some countries had not attended the said forum. “We suspect that our monies are with those countries,” he said in reference to the countries that did not attend the forum.
He added, certain monies may not have even gone through Sri Lankan channels, as it would be initially deposited in another country and would also have changed hands in the process. He went on to note that illegally siphoned monies are never stagnant in one entity and that it is regularly moved to prevent it from being traced. “Unfortunately, at this juncture, I cannot give an exact estimate of the amount that has been siphoned out of Sri Lanka or of the money that belonged to Sri Lanka, but was never returned,” he said.