An Open Letter Urging the President and the Leaders of Political Parties to Enact a “Recovery of Proceeds of Crime Act” It is time we seal the doors to corruption
Dear Mr. President and Leaders of political parties,
The citizens and civil society are most grateful to Reverend Athureliya Rathana Thero, for leading the ‘Pivithuru Hetak’ (For a Just and Fair Society Tomorrow) Movement, in the development of the National Policy statement ‘Rata Gatha Yuthu Maga’: which programme has as one of its cornerstones, the assurance of good governance and a corruption free society in Sri Lanka.
Reverend Athureliya Rathana Thero articulates that such an environment be made possible in Sri Lanka by
The re-establishment of the key public institutions, and these being made independent, capability resourced and empowered, as envisaged under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, and subsequently replaced by the unwarranted provisions of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution;
Re-establishing an Effective Constitutional Council, to ensure that independent and capable persons with proven track records are appointed to key offices in public institutions and in key executive positions;
Ensure disclosure of information by the Executive and empower every citizen to have a right of access to any required information;
Introduce Acts to investigate and prosecute bribery and corruption and for the fulfilment of the commitments and obligations under the UN Convention Against Corruption. The Bribery and Corruption Investigation Commission should in addition, not limit its functions to responding to the complaints, but should function as a multi-disciplinary, Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Investigating and Prosecuting Agency, and as such be empowered to investigate and prosecute all types of large scale corruption and economic crimes applicable with equal force to both public and private sectors.
In the fulfilment of the above noteworthy objectives of essential good governance and anti- corruption goals, the citizens and civil society believe it is necessary and essential, in addition, that the Government in due collaboration with the Opposition parties in the legislature to take early steps to enact a law for the due “Recovery of Proceeds of Crime”.
In the wake of some recent experiences, judicial pronouncements, public campaigns and civil society advocacy, the three arms of the State, comprising of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, as well as the private sector, the media and civil society as a whole, should no doubt agree and resolve that there is yet a further significant lacunae in the currently applicable legislative framework, in protecting the interests of victims of crime and the citizens and society at large, especially in restoring stolen / defrauded property illegally taken away from victims, the State and private business via;
1.Mega crimes linked to State property and State revenue and expenditure linked frauds,
2.Bribery and corruption linked crimes associated with State contracts, including frauds and crimes connected with infrastructure development and procurement contracts of the State and State authorities / corporations,
3.Mega corporate crimes involving Finance and Banking, Insurance, Investments, Commodity Trading, Infrastructure/ Natural Resource Development businesses as well as Agricultural and Industrial Technology / Innovations linked business entities,
4.Crimes connected with the operation of unauthorised deposit taking institutions and connected frauds etc,
5.Crimes associated with illegal money lending, pawn brokering, gems and jewellery businesses,
6. Computer / cyber crimes,
7. Crimes connected with the importation, manufacture, processing and distribution of narcotics, drugs and dangerous substances and harmful chemicals, items of food, drinks and medicines unfit for human /animal consumption,
8.Smuggling and export, import and transhipment of prohibited fauna, flora, rare and medicinal plants, fish and live animals, antiques, books, manuscripts, ola leaf manuscripts and heritage linked valuable items etc,
9.Crimes connected with illegal forestry, logging and timber exploitation and trading,
10.Crimes connected with illegal gemming, exploitation of metals and mineral resources,
11.Crimes connected with illegal property transactions and fraudulent land acquisitions and transfers of land and immovable property,
12.Crimes connected with illegal casino operations, gambling, betting, horse racing and lotteries,
13.Crimes connected with on-shore and off-shore illegal exploitation of natural resources, fisheries and aquatic resources, mineral and other resources,
14.Crimes connected with money laundering,
15.Crimes linked to terrorism, including crimes committed by the LTTE, their leaders and agents now living in Sri Lanka or overseas.
Any persons who have engaged in the above mentioned crimes, frauds and illegal activities, must not only be brought within the rule of law by the law enforcement and justice processes of the State, but equally importantly, should be duly subjected to effective legal provisions, law enforcements and judicial processes, to recover the proceeds of such crimes and frauds, which have enriched such criminals and fraudsters, their families, cronies and network associates.
Terrorism, war and conflict having subjected this nation and its people over a thirty-year period, to criminal elements associated with such activities, any persons connected with such criminal actions, whether currently living in Sri Lanka or overseas, where they have enriched themselves in the process, should also be pursued and be held accountable to the state; and any proceeds of such crimes that they may have enriched themselves with, their families and associates must be duly recovered. Such action must pave the way for specific recovery of any available assets of LTTE, their leaders and agents in Sri Lanka and overseas. All such property (including gold, jewellery, investments and bank deposits) recovered by the State and its agents must be restored to their legitimate owners and/or their legal heirs, along with any such assets as since recovered during and after the end of the war, by the state, the military, state authorities, banks and their agents.
It is therefore earnestly urged that the Government, the Opposition and the Executive must collectively take the initiative, as a natural extension to the legislation now proposed for adoption for the protection of victims of crime and witnesses, as well as those action steps articulated by Reverend Athureliya, to enact at the earliest, a comprehensive “Recovery of Proceeds of Crime Act.”
The Government, the Opposition and the Executive may for the above purpose, bench mark the proposed Sri Lanka enactment on “Recovery of Proceeds of crime Act” with the Australian Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 No. 85, 2002 as amended, http://www.comlaw.gov.au/details/c2013c00113.
It should be stressed that such an act should enable the victims of crimes committed by corporate entities, state officials,groups of individuals and individuals, (including the LTTE, their leaders and agents now living in Sri Lanka), to be held retrospectively accountable for such crimes, and successfully pave the way for specific recovery of any available assets of the perpetrators of such crimes, and the restoration of such property recovered, (along with such asset, as since already recovered by the state, military and state authorities and their agents) with the legitimate owners who were the victims of such crime.
With most political parties represented in the current Parliament being in agreement with the proposals of the ‘Pivithuru Hetak’ Movement and sentiments promoting good governance and anti-corruption action being specified in the Mahinda Chinthanaya and in the Parliamentary statements of leading Ministers, the recommendation made above for the early enactment of a “Recovery of Proceeds of Crime Act” should have the support of a majority of stakeholders required for such enactment.