President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to establish a 13-member Special Presidential Task Force (SPTF) to track down and seize illegally acquired assets in other countries owned by Sri Lankans and transfer them to the government. The cabinet approval for the task force had been granted on Wednesday.
Cabinet spokesman and Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the SPTF would probe matters relating to money laundering and assets acquired unlawfully and kept outside Sri Lanka by Sri Lankans.
“We have information that a minimum of US$ 10 billion has been deposited in foreign banks by Sri Lankans and US$ 3 billion of it has been deposited in the National Bank of Dubai. We are aware that little over US$ 1 billion has been transferred to another location from an account held by a member of a leading family in Sri Lanka soon after the Presidential election from the Dubai bank and another one billion has also been transferred in US$ 500 packages after that by a powerful Ministry Secretary and a Parliamentarian,” he said.
The cabinet memo submitted by President Sirisena says state assets and revenue which have been unlawfully acquired or procured by Sri Lankan nationals and other persons acting on behalf of them and are being concealed or kept outside Sri Lanka by such persons are to be probed and effective steps would be taken to seize and return them to Sri Lanka to be confiscated and vested in the General Treasury.
The SPTF will be empowered to make requests on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka to foreign governments, law enforcement bodies, investigating and prosecuting agencies and to judicial authorities, enabling it to discharge its functions in support of the probe.
The Task force will also transmit to the relevant law enforcement authorities and statutory bodies such as the Commission to Investigate. Allegations of Bribery or Corruption and the Financial Crimes Investigation Division of the Police Department, and to foreign law enforcement and prosecuting agencies, reliable information and investigational findings, which may be useful to such authorities in the conduct of criminal investigations for the purpose of prosecuting offenders.
Parallel to the discharge of functions assigned to the Taskforce, the Taskforce will be required to take steps to draft and submit for the consideration of the Cabinet Ministers a Bill to provide statutory recognition to the Taskforce by the creation of a suitable statutory body to take-over and discharge the duties and functions of the Taskforce, and to comprehensively deal with proceeds of crime.
The Taskforce will be empowered to obtain information from any public Officer or Ministry, Department or Statutory Body of the Government of Sri Lanka for the purpose of discharging the functions.
The Taskforce will directly report to President Sirisena on the discharge of its functions.
The 13 member SPTF will be comprised of a representative of the President and the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Director, Financial Intelligence Unit of the Central Bank, Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, IGP, Bribery Commission, Commissioner, General, Department of Inland Revenue, Director General, Sri Lanka Customs, Director, State Intelligence Service, Lead Counsel & Chief Investigation Officer, Commission of Inquiry on Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse and Misuse of Power and Privileges, Director, Financial Crimes Investigation Division, Police Department.
The Central Bank will provide logistical support and other facilities for the functioning of the Taskforce.
The Chairman and the Secretary will be named by President Sirisena after nominating the SPTF. (Sandun A Jayasekera)