Shortly after the Yahapalanaya government was formed in 2015, the process of investigating Rajapaksa-era corruption and financial crimes was kicked into high gear for the public to see. The police set up a new division, the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID). The government began an Anti-Corruption Committee and international assistance was sought to go after known crimes.
As a part of these efforts, high-level delegations of American law enforcement officials regularly came to Sri Lanka to assist local police and provide information to help bring corrupt officials to justice. At one such meeting held at Temple Trees in late 2015, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chief of Staff and then Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka hosted a delegation of American officials to thank them for their assistance to Sri Lanka.
At this meeting, Colombo Telegraph can reveal that a US law enforcement official suggested to Wickremesinghe and Ratnayaka that while getting evidence on cases that involved foreign jurisdictions such as the US would take time, that the government could instead make use of intelligence from America to charge people for crimes committed in Sri Lanka.
As an example, the official provided a file with customs declarations filed in California by Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s son Daminda Manoj Rajapaksa during the previous regime. These forms, known as Reports on International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (CMIR) or FinCEN Form 105, are used to declare when someone is bringing cash into America in a sum of over $10,000.
The documents showed to Wickremesinghe showed that Daminda Manoj Rajapaksa had on several occasions between July 2012 and August 2014, travelled to the US from Sri Lanka, and brought with him up exactly US $20,000 in cash in American hundred-dollar bills. Over six trips, the younger Rajapaksa had taken US $120,000 or Rs. 15.6 million in cash out of Sri Lanka and into his home country of America.
Reliable sources told Colombo Telegraph that after looking at the documents, the Prime Minister asked the Americans whether they had information about the source of the funds in Sri Lanka, to which they said no. The customs forms, they explained, did not require the person making the declaration to state the source of funds. The officials suggested that it was likely he had not declared the cash when exporting it from Sri Lanka, which is an offence under Sri Lankan law.
Section 27 of the Financial Transactions Reporting Act requires any person entering or leaving Sri Lanka with more than $10,000 in currency or similar instruments to declare the cash to a customs officer. Failure to declare, or making a false declaration, for each instance, carries a one-year prison sentence. If the money was laundered, that prison sentence could go up to twenty years.
The Americans suggested that the information they provided be used to check whether or not Manoj Rajapaksa had made customs declarations in Sri Lanka, and thereafter that the FCID or the Central Bank Financial Intelligence Unit use the information to investigate the source of funds in Sri Lanka. The Americans offered to lend assistance, if necessary, through their anti-kleptocracy unit.
Wickremesinghe and Ratnayaka thanked the Americans for the information and said they would pass it on to the relevant officials at once. However, the matter ended there. Today, almost four years later, the FCID, CID, Central Bank FIU or customs have not been given the documents shared with Wickremesinghe by the Americans. Unlike similar intelligence reports from reliable sources, the information was not passed down to the Anti-Corruption Committee either.
Colombo Telegraph can confirm that none of these agencies received this information, and up to now investigations have taken place in Sri Lanka into the possible outward money laundering by the son of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The file with the damning evidence provided by the Americans is presumed to still be safely tucked away at Temple Trees collecting dust to this day, for reasons best known to the Prime Minister and his Chief of Staff.