Attempts to smuggle out US$ 208,000: Finance Ministry keeps file

The Finance Ministry has retained the Customs file containing evidence on the November arrest of Jaya Sudhir Jayaram, a Malaysian businessman, who was attempting to smuggle foreign currency out of the country, authoritative sources said.

US dollar notes amounting to US$ 50,000 were found in the hand luggage of Mr. Jayaram. Two others also had US$ 50,000 each in their possession while the fourth carried US$ 58,000. This is a total of US$ 208,000 or Rs 31.8 million.

A file containing evidence against the suspects (including messages of them canvassing powerful political personalities to have them released) was taken from the custody of the relevant Customs officials by the Director General of Customs, the sources said.
It was then sent to the Ministry of Finance on request. It has still not been returned to the Department of Customs for further action. Neither have the relevant Customs officers been paid their rewards for the sizeable detection.

The suspects are now trying to influence the authorities in Sri Lanka to have the money–which was confiscated–returned to them, the sources claimed. It was not immediately clear who was blocking the investigation from proceeding or punitive action from being taken.
Mr Jayaram had claimed the money was the proceeds of a win at a popular casino in Colombo. However, he could not offer documentary evidence of this claim. The group was allowed to leave on payment of a fine of Rs 400,000 (Rs 100,000 each) while the currency was forfeited.

The Customs detection took place on November 10 last year.
Due to substantial political pressure, Mr Jayaram was released without penalty, reliable BIA sources said.
He left the country (for Kuala Lumpur) shortly after his detention–before an inquiry could be conducted–after handing over the US$ 50,000 that had been in his possession to one of the other suspects. He has given a guarantee that he will return for an inquiry when it is scheduled.

The inquiry into non-declaration of currency by two other suspects (who were detained at the gate) was held on the same day. They were fined Rs 200,000 each and released. The undeclared currency was forfeited. The inquiry into the actions of the fourth suspect was postponed till November 23. All three left for Kuala Lumpur in the night of the same day. Mr Jayaram was released in the morning.

Neither Mr Jayaram nor the fourth suspect honoured their word by presenting themselves for the subsequent Customs inquiry, the Sunday Times reliably learns. The proceedings were, therefore, conducted ex-parte. The undeclared currency was forfeited with no penalty imposed.

The offence the group was booked on is non-declaration of currency. Under regulations, anyone taking more than US$ 10,000 in any form of foreign currency, including notes, bank drafts or travel cards, must declare it to Sri Lanka Customs. Anyone taking currency notes of more than US$ 5,000 must also declare it.

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