Something is wrong in the State…

1 November 2015 07:20 pm - 3     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The billion dollar bank accounts: The billion dollar question is why there is no indictment


ike its predecessor, the new government excels at keeping the public enthralled.
The Rajapaksa regime’s recipe was hard boiled patriotism, now its successor has adopted ‘anti-corruption’ to achieve the same end. If the statements recorded by the PRECIFAC, CID and other investigation agencies are to be counted, by now, we could have were a world record.
 Since a good part of that spectacle is taking place in front of TV cameras, people get their daily dose of propaganda. For the time being, we have a satiated society!
However, something is amiss. For nearly ten months since launching those high profile investigations, there is not a single indictment.
The anti- corruption campaign is increasingly becoming part of bread and circus strategy. Despite high decibel sound bites, the strategy is patently flawed. The most glaring indictment on that account is the failure of the government to freeze an account of a son of a VVIP in a bank in Dubai.
The bank account, it was claimed, had over US$ one billion. That is a mighty load of cash, with which the VVIP prodigy could well single handedly finance two thirds of Colombo Port City (total investment of which was US$ 1.4 billion) or build five airports like the one in Mattala at a cost of $ 209 million.
Young MP Namal Rajapaksa has since denied allegations that the bank account in Dubai belonged to him. Now the reports say a brother of the said VVIP son is also having an account in Dubai.


The Dubai court has refused to grant the request by the Sri Lankan representatives to freeze the account on the grounds that the holder of the account had not been convicted or indicted or that not even an investigation against him has been launched.
Granted that those investigations are complex and time consuming. However, it was in early March, that the government’s Spokesperson Minister Rajitha Senaratne told media that US$ 2.5 billion of public money allegedly stashed away in several bank accounts in a ‘middle eastern’ country had been traced.
He then said ‘one person from a leading family held US$1.064 billion. Another account under a Parliament member’s name had over US$500 million and a secretary to a very important person had over US$500 million jointly with another person.’
Since then we have not heard about the fate of those investigations, until, the Sunday Times reported the government’s effort to freeze this particular account and its subsequent failure to obtain the court order. Now, it is reported that seven other accounts belonging to the leaders and a cohort of the former regime have been traced.

 

"The Rajapaksas and their cronies cannot be tried and found guilty (or innocent) over television talk shows and media briefings delivered by the government ministers. Though, that is exactly what this government has been doing for the last ten months."




Later, Minister Rajitha Senaratne told a media briefing that “in one account there is US $1.086 billion, US $ 1.8 billion in another and in yet another more than US$ 500 million.”
The billion dollar question, then, is why not a formal investigation has been launched against any of those cases for nearly six months, let alone, obtaining a single indictment.
That is rather incomprehensible, given the magnitude of the allegations. At least, one would expect Czars of the income tax department to make a visit to those newly rich dollar billionaires and amend their tax files accordingly. None of that happened.
That is why the entire anti-corruption crusade risks being reduced to a grand farce, akin to those Presidential commissions in the past. What we have seen for the past six months is a media circus in the name of fighting corruption.
If that is the strategy, its objective is to slander the leaders of the old regime and to delegitimise them in the eyes of the public.
But, public who have been fed with often contradictory information cannot do the job of the courts.   Courts and quasi-judicial mechanisms are there to enforce laws in a fair and rational manner, and the Police, investigative and corruption busting agencies are there to assist the judiciary.
The Rajapaksas and their cronies cannot be tried and found guilty (or innocent) over television talk shows and media briefings delivered by the government ministers. Though, that is exactly what this government has been doing for the last ten months.




Sri Lanka has plenty of old and new institutions to crack down on corruption. The government earlier set up a special presidential taskforce, “to investigate, identify, trace, seize and transfer to Sri Lanka, State assets and revenue due to the Government of Sri Lanka which have been illegally or unlawfully acquired or procured by Sri Lankan nationals and other persons acting on their behalf, and are being concealed or kept outside the territory of Sri Lanka.”  There is also the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC), which keeps on summoning individuals from the previously almighty ex-president to artistes, who danced to his tune. There is also newly empowered Bribery Commission.
There is also the financial intelligence unit of the Central Bank which is collaborating with its international counterparts to trace assets that had been siphoned from the country. When President Sirisena went to New Delhi for his first official visit, he reportedly asked Indian Prime Minister Modi for Indian assistance to trace missing public funds. Then there was John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, who gauging the public mood in Colombo during his visit, promised US assistance to trace public money stashed away abroad.

 

"One would hope the new government’s efforts to bring back siphoned public funds would not replicate the failure of its predecessor’s much publicised campaign to trace LTTE assets"



Alas, despite all those institutions and international goodwill, we have achieved nothing. One would hope the new government’s efforts to bring back siphoned public funds would not replicate the failure of its predecessor’s much publicised campaign to trace LTTE assets. All it could bring was a ramshackle ship.
Equally disturbing is the absence of follow-up action in even some of the most publicised investigations.
Take for instance the report of the special board of inquiry into alleged irregularities at the Sri Lankan Airlines. The board of inquiry found corruption running into billions of dollars in the US$ 2.3 billion re-fleeting of the national carrier. The panel led by the local anti-corruption activist J. C. Weliamuna, and mandated by the Prime Minister himself recommended criminal investigations into the entire re-fleeting process. It also recommended former chairman of the national carrier Nishantha Wickramasinghe, a brother-in-law of ex-president Rajapaksa, be prosecuted.
After much publicity at its release, the report is gathering dust. No follow up action was taken, no indictments were filed and Mr. Wickramasinghe is vacationing in London. Something is wrong with the government strategy; the government should rectify it before it is too late and turns into a farce.

Follow Ranga Jayasuriya @RangaJayasuriya on Twitter

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  Comments - 3

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

 
  • Brindley Wednesday, 04 November 2015 03:33 AM

    Take a cue from S Korea. So far three former Presidents have been given the death penalty for corruption.

    Paranin Tuesday, 03 November 2015 10:38 AM

    Opps ... not only this there is a list of action pending.. I wonder why .. Sri Lanka is such a small beautiful country. We should eliminate all corruption and educate people good behavior to have better life. Its our nation!!!!

    Patriot Wednesday, 04 November 2015 08:22 AM

    Get a life brother. The One billion is hidden in the boot of the Lamborghini. If you know what a billion dollar really is you will not be wasting your time writing silly articles to papers.


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