The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has come up with an invaluable database of offshore account holders worldwide in 10 tax havens based on leaked information. About 30 odd names of individuals and companies linked to Sri Lanka were also included in this database.
The matter was raised in Parliament on Wednesday by United National Party (UNP) legislator and economist Dr. Harsha De Silva and requested the Speaker to appoint a Select Committee to carry out a preliminary investigation.
A follow-up story done by the business desk of our newspaper reported that neither the Central Bank nor the Treasury would conduct investigations into the holders of these secret offshore accounts on the basis that “they were just newspaper reports”.
Though the Central Bank and the Treasury dismissed the matter saying it’s not more than a couple of news reports, neighbouring India seemed to have taken the matter very seriously.
When The Indian Express published the revelations of dealings by Indians in tax havens which included two members of the Indian Parliament, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced an investigation. “We have taken note of the names,” he said at a press conference, “and inquiries have been put in motion”.
However it seems that the Sri Lankan authorities at the moment are showing very lukewarm interest about these possible cases of violation of exchange control rules of the country.
We can reach two general assumptions as to why the authorities have expressed lukewarm interest about this serious matter. The first assumption is, the relevant authorities already knew about these offshore accounts and the holders of these accounts had opened them following the proper regulatory procedures.
As Deputy Secretary to the Treasury Dr. Batagoda told our business desk, there were a number of offshore account holders who had opened these accounts following proper regulations.
The other assumption we could reach as to why the authorities were not taking up the matter was that they didn’t want to open a Pandora’s Box! Maybe the names that have appeared up to now were of the small fish and the names of the big fish were yet to come.
Whatever it is the entire nation is keenly waiting to see the measures the authorities would take against these possible cases of tax evasions and money laundering.