26 May, 2019

Blog

Lankans In The Panama Papers: The People Behind The Offshore Companies 

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Every newspaper in the country seems to have visited the ICIJ website and published the names of the 65 Sri Lankans named in the Offshore Leaks and Panama Papers (both sets of names exist in one list). Being on this list or being associated to it, however, does not make anyone a criminal. Yes, four Avante-Garder are there, but Emma Watson is also on that list; so are two Hirdramani’s. I don’t want to believe that Hermoine Granger, after all she went through with Voldemort, committed tax fraud.

However, there is one thing we can do: take a closer look at the companies outed in that list

Panama Papers Sri Lanka

Corporate entities in the ICIJ database take three forms: they’re either Mossack Fonseca, an offshore entity or an intermediary. Offshore entities are incorporated in tax haven countries (mostly the British Virgin isles – whoever named those islands was probably doing some very wistful thinking). The intermediaries, as I understand it, bridge the tax haven and the user.

1. OVERSEAS FINANCE LIMITED. Incorporated 1992.

Jurisdiction: the British Virgin Islands.

Listed address: Advantec Network Systems, 7/11, Liberty Plaza, Colombo 03.

I’m pretty sure Advantec is not a finance company. A brief search shows Advantec Network Systems registered in business directories as a company importing and distributing networking gear. They apparently bring down stuff from Brand Rex, Allied Telesyn, Lucent, Rittal and Finolex. Registered address: 7A, Summer Place, Borella. Year established: also 1992.

If this is our Advantec, it doesn’t look like ye little cable company from Borella. lk.kompass.com lists one Prakash Advani as an executive.

Prakash Advani and Advantec show up in the same breath multiple times, most notably in this Business Standard article, which reports that Advantec markets TV/COM products in India.

India? There is an Advantec listed in India. 44 Malkani Mahal, Nr Century Bhavn, Dr A B Road, Worli, Mumbai. P. Rajendran, publicly listed as Advantec’s General Manager in Sri Lanka, went to school and college in India after graduating from a school in Nawalapitiya.

Now – maybe I’m off the field here, but the name ‘Advantec’ seems to be incredibly common in this database of ours. A search for companies containing those letters gives us 12 names:Panama Papers Sri Lanka

One of which lists Portcullis TrustNet Chambers as the address – Portcullis, a company which was outed in ICIJ’s 2013 Offshore Leaks Investigation as one of the most popular companies behind such offshore companies.

Either this rabbit hole runs deep, or I’ve gone off on a tangent.

2. TECLLOYD TLD. Incorporated 1994.

Jurisdiction: the British Virgin Islands.

Listed address: Asia Capital Limited, 21-01 West Tower, World Trade Center, Echelon Square, Colombo.

Now, there is a fairly well-known Asia Capital. It’s an investment bank listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. Could it be the same one?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Unlike Advantec, this one barely needs digging. Asia Capital is huge. “At Asia Capital PLC we have often chosen the road less travelled as we continue to strive towards achieving the unreasonable, the unattainable and even the impossible in value added investment and unmatched wealth creation services,” says their website. Their 2015 Annual Report is an eye-opener: Rs 1,651,075,000 in turnover; Rs 2,641,332,000 in total assets. That’s Rs 1.65 billion in turnover – 70% up from 2014, as their report notes. Their annual reports since 2007 are available here. Their Chairman is Paul Ratnayeke; the CEO is Stefan Abeyesinhe.

Interestingly, Paul seems to have quit the company in 2008, only to return later. He runs Paul Ratnayeke Associates – 59, Gregory’s Road, Colombo 07, and was also involved in Richard Pieris & Company – ARPICO to us mortals.

Since this is a very well-known and talented lawyer who’s been working the field longer than I’ve been alive, let me cover my ass and repeat my earlier statement: being on this list or being associated to it, does not make anyone a criminal. As the ICIJ themselves state, there are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly. This article is composed entirely of publicly available information and is not meant to accuse anyone of anything other than being publicly searchable.

I suppose this is one way of achieving the unreasonable, the unattainable and even the impossible – set up a company that sounds like Tec9 met Pink Flloyd.

3. BEST CHEERS LIMITED. Incorporated 2002.

Jurisdiction: the British Virgin Islands.

Listed address: Simon Paul Finch, Apt no 8B, Ceylinco Residencies, Ceylinco Seylan Towers, 90, Galle Road, Colombo 3

The address is actually a person, not a company, so it’s complicated. Also, the Simon Paul is apparently a fairly common name in the name list, so I sorted by Simon Finch. Simon Finch appears once in the Officers list, country code LKA. If it’s the same one, Simon Paul Finch is a ghost. I have nothing on him. MacLloyd’s lists a Simon Paul Finch at 131, W.A.D. Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 02. There is one Facebook user by that name listing සිංහල as a spoken language. Simon Finches are everywhere in England.

Except for one record: Companydirectorcheck.com.

SIMON FINCH, it says, Apartment 88 Ceylinco Seylan Towers.

Born: 1965.

Nationality: BRITISH.

Country: SRI LANKA.

Post town: COLOMBO.

Zoom in on the record. Simon Finch was employed as Director at KNIGHTSFORD EQUESTRIAN CENTRE LTD, 45 High Street, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, SA61 2BP from 02 March 2001 to 18 January 2005. The company is now dissolved.

Is Simon Finch, born 1965, the same Simon Finch associated with Best Cheers? Despite him practically being a digital ghost, the odds seem pretty high if you consider that ‘8B Ceylinco Seylan Towers’ and ’88 Ceylinco Seylan Towers’ are visually almost identical – one could easily be a typo of the other.

___________________

This concludes my digging into the offshore entities listed in the Panama Papers. I never intended to write this much, but as it turns out, the search was longer than I had imagined. When time permits, I’ll attempt to do the same for the intermediaries listed in the files.

The actual number of Sri Lankans involved in the Papers is definitely greater than 65; there seem to be quite a few linked from Singapore, the UAE and the like. We may need to go through the entire list to compile the definitive list of all persons of Sri Lankan affiliation or descent.

To examine the same data that I’ve been using, head over to https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/pages/database. That database is the summary list of names of both the 2013 Offshore Leaks investigation and those of the Panama Papers. I’m afraid the full 2.6 Terabyte dataset is almost impossible to download on a Sri Lankan connection, so unless the newspapers decide to get serious, I doubt we’ll get beyond listing names and hashtagging #yahapalanaya.

For some interesting visualizations of the full dataset, visit https://panamapapers.icij.org/graphs/. Happy hunting.

*Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a contributor to Colombo Telegraph, his articles can be found on his blog, icaruswept.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 3
    2

    In UK and Western countries it will be for tax purposes (legit money)
    In sunny Lanka it will be to park ill gotten gains( corruption )under one’s own name or associates.

    • 0
      0

      Off shore accounts are generally opened due to two reasons.

      The first is to avoid taxes and this is the case for western country individuals and companies.

      The second reason is due to foreign exchange restrictions such as in Sri Lanka.

      What is required in Sri Lanka is to allow individuals and companies to allow free movement of foreign currency if it is earned through foreign employment or through export earnings or similar reasons.

      Almost every professional and busibessman in Colombo has a bank account in a foreign country due to this reason. Singapore alone has close to 50,0000 bank accounts of Sri Lankans. Every trader in Pettah has a foreign country bank account to avoid restrictions and understandable.

      Hope yahapalanaya govt changes the old and outdated exchange control Act.

  • 5
    0

    As we see corrupt politicians and their henchmen use overseas tax shelters to hide the ill gotten wealth. Currently ordinary people living in Australia, UK, Canada and in some countries in Europe are finding it difficult to own a house as these corrupt money from Asia is used to purchase real estate. In Vancouver and Toronto housing is no longer affordable as Chinese are buying property like crazy and no one is living with yards neglected. Australia has introduce a law to prevent foreigners with shady dealings from acquiring property in the country. I believe the trend in Sri Lanka started after 77 when prominent politician’s name was linked to real estates in Australia. Some Sri Lankans must be disappointed not to see MARA’s name in the Panama papers. MARA and the clan which includes Basil (Would have learned something from Gamini D) , Gota BIL. Lanka logistics folks are very smart guys and not to forget they come from the other side of “Bentara ganga” the money must be parked somewhere and chineese would have taught them a trick or two on how to hide the money. I hear that Gota’s son went to Duke and was working in Malaysia so follow the route. Didn’t KP found in that country. Now tale of Balapatabadi is officially out and how did CBK end up owning a house in UK and educate the children in UK with her salary. During JRs time Minikdiwela’s son’s name was linked to arms trade and the partner Athula (Arthur) Senanayakes (One time Chairman of the so called Primier Buddhist Bank in SL) and the family name is everywhere in the Panama Papers. Why has Pacha Ranawaka gone silent theses days has Amarapala’s name in the Panama papers become a factor. My vote next time goes to JVP and no none else provided that people would not get on to the street before that. Or no I forgot this will not happen as US will not allow is something like this to happen in SL.

  • 3
    0

    Should not the IR Dept and CB appoint Officers to research and arrive
    at current addresses or last known addresses of Sri Lankans and
    forward them letters demanding a Declaration, as far as Tax/wealth/
    Transfer of Exchange are concerned, as a fist step, instead of
    waiting C.O.I under MS/RW – which may not happen? These Authorities
    are duty bound under their regulations to proceed on these lines I
    guess. India has commenced work in this direction as reported elsewhere. Sri Lankan Administrators may be waiting to make deals as opportunities present and Brokers may be active?

  • 8
    0

    British Virgin Islands. (United States Dollar)
    shall not answer even the UK government.

    So you can forget the effort on accounts at B.V.I.

    As if the present government is any to go by from the former government.
    The present government has no standing in the international market for it’s honesty and doing what it has said it would.

    Consider Lanka out of investigation unless the party is a terrorist or drug merchant.

  • 1
    0

    It may be near impossible to get at these accounts and also evidence to hold up in Courts. As an interim measure we need to find a way to freeze these accounts. That should start a panic and make the account holders amenable negotiation with the government.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.