23 September, 2020

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The Realities Of The Panama Papers: Will Sri Lanka Wake Up?

By Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

Lukman Harees

On April 3, 2016, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest daily newspaper leaked 11.5 million files from the database of Mossack Fonseca law firm whose headquarters is in Panama City, Panama. The firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies, corporate structures that can be used to hide ownership of assets. The files exposed financial dealings of some of the world’s richest and most powerful individuals. The documents included financial records, legal documents such as passports, and correspondences dating back over 40 years, which reveal offshore accounts of current and former world leaders as well as individuals with close ties to political figures and business moguls around the globe. The files also revealed that it is not only politicians who are found to be tied to the alleged laundering of funds but many celebrities, professional sporting stars and even sporting bodies too. Now that the door is open, new revelations are bound to come forward to expose the depth of the Panamanian corruption scandal. The release of the Panama Papers is thought to be merely ‘Chapter One’ of a much more serious and larger case.

Analysts comment that these findings show how deeply ingrained harmful practices and criminality are in the offshore world and that the release of the leaked documents should prompt governments to seek “concrete sanctions” against jurisdictions and institutions that peddle offshore secrecy. The documents reveal that Mossack Fonseca, far from being an aberration, was an integral part of the operations of leading global banks. As ICIJ put it, “The documents make it clear that major banks are big drivers behind the creation of hard-to-trace companies in the British Virgin Islands, Panama and other offshore havens. The files list nearly 15,600 paper companies that banks set up for clients who want to keep their finances under wraps, including thousands created by international giants UBS and HSBC. This leak is thus proof that despite explicit banking laws against tax evasion, criminal uses and money laundering, the global offshore shell game business remains open for the wealthy and well connected to exploit.”Panama Papers Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans in Panama Papers – 3 clients, 3 companies and 22 shareholders

This state of affairs bears much direct relevance to Sri Lanka as well, as the map, published by the Irish Times, titled as ‘secret companies around the world’ indicates that there were 3 Sri Lankan companies too which were listed in the report with 3 clients and 22 shareholders. Therefore, there is direct interest for Sri Lanka to investigate further regarding this exposure about Sri Lankan companies and entities being named in this controversy, Government should however not just limit their interest to a ‘full detailed exposure’ of those companies and personalities involved, but also to ascertain the extent of the tentacles of corruption and money laundering followed by politicos and businesses in stashing their ‘ill-gotten’ and tax evading wealth abroad. One of the largest protests in Iceland’s history demanding Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson to step down after the leaked files after it was revealed that he and his wife were hiding investments worth millions of dollars behind a secretive offshore company, nears much resonance to all of us following political developments in Sri Lanka.

Mangala Samaraweera was on record sometime back that Sri Lanka already secured support from four countries to track and bring back an estimated $18 billion in assets stolen by former president MR Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family. The US and India had previously announced  helping Sri Lanka’s new government track down stolen wealth stashed abroad, allegedly hoarded in tax havens. But, the start of the Maithri-Ranil era too smacked of corruption and one of the prime examples was Central Banks Governor’s alleged shady deal, which dented their credibility too, to a great degree. It is therefore vital that the new government too, read their mandate right, which was the result of the winds of political change which swept through Sri Lanka in 2015, where people demanded a clear plan of action to bring in good governance, transparency and accountability; not just small does of them. Of course, investigative and law enforcement arms such as FCID and anti-Corruption and Bribery Commission were set up and/or strengthened and it has been a routine daily news bulletin item in the post-January 2015 period, about many parties submitting petitions to the Commission and Police arresting and releasing various culprits. These stage dramas almost becoming a source of entertainment to the public rather than bringing in any significant results, have made the public to question whether the ‘Yahapalana’ promise to have zero tolerance’ to corruption is merely an eye wash or a serious commitment to clean the stables and ensure a clean political culture.

Of course, there are noticeable improvements in accountability and transparency and press freedom which enable people to know more about how political leadership is managing public finances. But, people are demanding quite rightly concrete steps to achieve the ideal of zero tolerance to corruption; not just ‘flashes in the pan’ sort of marginal improvements to just to attract public attention or gain short term cheap political mileage by hunting down political opponents. Public also need to know a clear picture about the progress of the government’s drive to track down nation’s wealth stashed abroad as they alleged and shouted out from the rooftops during election time. Sri Lanka was named as the 83 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Rank in Sri Lanka averaged 81.79 from 2002 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 97 in 2009 and a record low of 52 in 2002. Sri Lanka clearly need to aim for a consistent plan of action to achieve a higher rating on the Anti-Corruption Index of Transparency International (TI) .

Black money is basically the income on which tax has been evaded and tax havens are territories which provide a safe and easy environment for money to come in. Such territories are “safe” because neither do they ask the depositors as to where the money is coming from nor do they share such account information of the depositors easily with other countries. It is a known fact that such flow of black money out of a country into tax havens of this dubious nature such as such as Fonseca in Panama ( which is reportedly only the third largest in the world and not the only one) can easily destabilize the financial market of a country. It is developing countries like Sri Lanka, which are impacted more due to such flight of capital and hence we need to take immediate and stringent measures to put all this to an end. It has been estimated that every year, developing countries lose about $160 billion to such tax havens. Adopting urgent measures to curb such an outflow of black money is therefore the need of the hour for Sri Lanka in this crucial point of time, when there is a new government which enjoys a credible rating much better than the previous one and there is clamour from the public and their aspiration is at an all-time high to ensue a clean political culture for Sri Lanka. Besides, it is also important to reform the vital institutions of the judiciary and the law enforcement authorities, particularly the Police to rid of corruption and partiality to regain public credibility. Perhaps, this is an opportune time to reflect on this national priority, when constitution reforms are on the cards.

Will therefore Panama papers enthuse Sri Lanka to go beyond mere verbosity and put their house in order – to take concrete action to bring culprits who have siphoned out public funds abroad to their advantage, to close the legal /financial loopholes and to hold public representatives to account by ensuring accountability and transparency on their part? Only time will tell. But, in the best interests of our future generations, Sri Lankans must insist on their government to ‘walk its’ talk’ and not to let it off to slide along the ‘NATO ( No action Talk Only) lane, which politicians usually like to take.

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Latest comments

  • 22
    29

    All I can tell Lukman is Look Man have a life. Mongols 18b USD is an embarresment to general intelligencia. In a country where foreign reserve is a mere 8b USD how did MR hoard 18b by printing green backs. This is the problem when Eunach rule the country. In olden days Eunachs were there to protect the haram. In this yahapalanya the Eunachs are protecting a haggard old wench and her vengeance and we have lost causes like Lukam looking for 18b now in Panama.[Edited out]

    • 10
      10

      The yahapalians are awaiting the Panama leak details with salivation.. like they did on the HSBC leaks.. lol

    • 10
      6

      Patriot,

      You are certainly a Patriot of MR! It is people like you who brought him down! Greed is the name of the game!

    • 4
      8

      Use a spell checker. It is EUNUCH not Eunach nor is it Enoch. IT IS EUNUCH. They are very loyal and fierce in defending their masters. In this case it will be the Eunuch in chief married to lesbian in chief.

      • 0
        0

        Gaymann,if not for SPELL CHECK” YOU would not have written this stupid comment.”thank God For SpellCheck” Go on….

    • 3
      0

      Lukman Harees

      “This state of affairs bears much direct relevance to Sri Lanka as well, as the map, published by the Irish Times, titled as ‘secret companies around the world’ indicates that there were 3 Sri Lankan companies too which were listed in the report with 3 clients and 22 shareholders. Therefore, there is direct interest for Sri Lanka to investigate further regarding this exposure about Sri Lankan companies and entities being named in this controversy, Government should however not just limit their interest to a ‘full detailed exposure’ of those companies and personalities involved, but also to ascertain the extent of the tentacles of corruption and money laundering followed by politicos and businesses in stashing their ‘ill-gotten’ and tax evading wealth abroad.”

      Thank you expose, expose and expose.

      Apply pressure to get to the bottom of this.

      Poor women are working in the Middle East to feed their families and coming back in body bags and with nails in their bodies. Some are beheaded.

      Yes, expose, expose and expose.

    • 4
      2

      Patriot ,

      “All I can tell Lukman is Look Man have a life.”

      what makes you to tell this writer to have a life when he is only trying to educate masses about this unprecedented phenomenon ! it looks like you’ve got someone to protect and hide ;furthermore , who do you want protect from this exposure ? apparently , your former boss is being trapped , where he can’t escape ! hey dude , have some patience , only 150 odd documents have been analysed thus far , you could have easily dismissed this allegation , had it been emanated from SL soil , simply putting the blame on Diaspora , no chance mate .this is real.

      As to Mangala’s 18 B claim , its very clear that you try your very best to ridicule and undermine any person who ever comes up against your former Mafia boss , foreign reserve being only 8 B does not necessarily mean Rajapaksa hadn’t stolen 18 B , it’s far too early to come to such hasty conclusions , only your type of lackeys would seek these types of cheap escape routes . mind you ,west is still struggling to locate Gaddafi’s , Ben Ali’s , Mubarak’s loot ;hence only thing comes to my mind is , chill out!!

      PS: are you the “Siyalla dath Mama pora ” Dayan ?

      • 1
        0

        Here is the list of casualties thus far ,

        1)MAURICIO MACRI ,President of Argentina
        2) AYAD ALLAWI,Former Iraqi PM

        3) SIGMUNDUR DAVID GUNNLAUGSSON,PM of Iceland
        4) KING SALMAN BIN ABDULAZIZ BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL SAUD
        King of Saudi Arabia
        5) PETRO POROSHENKO , President of Ukraine
        6) RAMI AND HAFEZ MAKHLOUF , Cousins of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, 7) KOJO ANNAN , Son of ex-U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
        8) FAMILY OF NAWAZ SHARIF , PM of Pakistan
        9) ARKADY AND BORIS ROTENBERG , Lifelong friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin
        10) SERGEY ROLDUGIN , Close personal friend of Putin
        11) IAN CAMERON , Father of David Cameron .
        12) Jaki Chan
        13) A Bachchan and his daughter in law.

  • 17
    6

    We can never be free civilized country while things like rugby player killing, welikada prison assassinations,Rajapaksas stealing of public funds, white van abductions and killings etc.etc.being swept under the carpet?
    We could never have a leader like Lee Kwan Yew?

  • 11
    8

    NR ASSOCIATES, GOWER, CARLTON , AVANT GARDE
    3 OUT OF 4!

  • 9
    16

    Batalanda & Co Ltd (Human molesters club), Haal Hora and Co Ltd (Araliya Co Lt), Very new Daya Group (capital extortionists), Global Park (Ravi & Co) – THATS 4 OUT OF 4

  • 7
    2

    mangala will some how fix mahinda into this panama report just wait and see

    • 4
      2

      Mangala cant fix himself,sinatamby,how can this buffoon checkmate MR.
      Mangala & Co’s big talk about the $18 Bil,made this Yahapalanaya,now people cant wait to see them kicked out.
      before MR,Mongala will be fixed.(as you can see have you ever heard Mongala,commenting on MR now.

  • 4
    5

    MS can have lessons from mara and his predecessors on how to become rich. That has been an accepted normal as a king has to be rich.

  • 13
    1

    Yes, Sri Lanka should wake up. Could the writer or someone (i.e. Colombo Telegraph) reveal the 3 clients, 3 companies and the 22 shareholders in Sri Lanka who are implicated in the Panama Papers?

    Of course, the current government has a major responsibility in taking action against corruption, past and present. That was an election promise. The process so far is slow. Equally important is the civil society and media action pressing towards that end. Two important factors in the ‘Panama Papers’ or similar revelations have been (1) committed whistle-blowers and (2) investigative journalism. Both are quite weak in Sri Lanka on the questions of corruption, tax evasion, money laundering etc.

    Establishment of some principles are also necessary. (1) Charges against corruption should not be for political point scoring. (2) People who come up with revelations (charges or accusations) should supply concrete evidence of documents, communications or proof, as much as possible. (3) Accusation of corruption should be recognize as serious business. Flimsy accusations should not be made. (4) The documents and information should be made public. (5) The media and journalists should have a commitment to fight against corruption and should question the persons who are accused or implicated in corruption on the basis of those facts, of course without any pre-judgement. (6) People should not take corruption, tax evasion, money laundering etc. leniently. (7) Public policies and principles should be further developed on these matters.

    • 6
      5

      Doctor the process is slow because the present govt is playing by the rules. No white vans are being used and dont forget those who bled the country dry were not fools they have done it so cunningly so it makes it difficult for the present regime to press charges easily.That is why the corrupt are being hauled in little by little on minor charges.The major frauds seem to have taken cover behind loopholes in the law and use of proxys etc.
      Patience Doc the wheels of justice move slowly but surely.Even if man made justice doesnt prevail divine justice will, We will witness it in front of our eyes.

    • 2
      1

      Dr

      Sri Lankan companies’ involvement was reported in news-first quoting Irish Times which carried a map .

      http://newsfirst.lk/english/2016/04/panama-papers-the-latest-on-the-data-leak-of-the-century/132815

      I am also in agreement of the pragmatic approach the government need to take.

  • 3
    4

    Helping Hambantota… Is it a company???

  • 1
    0

    These Panama Papers are very good news, albeit only the tip of the ice-berg. This hot news going viral thru social media will help strengthen peoples demand and initiatives the world over to force simply by democratic means, thru the ballot, their elected governments to go after, bring to justice, dismantle the networks of the corrupt practices of the multinational corporations, military-industrial complexes, banks, politicians and all of their collaborators to reccover these vast amounts of ill-gotten tax evading monies. Moreover these recoveries would help swell depleted government coffers to be used for national socio-economic development. Inevitably this had to happen; its PAY-BACK time !

  • 7
    2

    The Panama business is petty cash compared to the wealth of the thousands, nay millions, that have escaped Sri Lanka to live their lives in the ever growing diaspora. Every government since independence has failed to stop the haemorrhaging of talent and hard working people who have left. Every government, without exception, failed to build a country based on the rule of law, keeping the peace, justice for all, high educational standards, better health services, and equal opportunity for all.

    The loss runs into billions of rupees; go on, do the sums.

  • 7
    0

    The Panama papers is much ado about nothing. Although it is supposed to be the largest leak of information the world has ever seen, with 11.5 documents, which suggests an industrial scale operation very likely originating from and involving a very sophisticated national intelligence agency. Of even great interest is the absence of a single US politician from the list – or indeed of a single US billionaire. As the nation with the greatest number of dollar millionaires per capita and the largest economy in the world it would be reasonable to expect that US citizens would feature heavily in the list; as US politicians are the wealthiest elected lawmakers in the world (the majority of parliamentarians are now millionaires and the average wealth of a Senator is $2.5 million) it is therefore natural to expect they would feature heavily. The US does not feature at all. Those featured are Chinese leadership, the PM of Pakistan, Russian leadership and Indian stars like Amita Bachchan.

  • 2
    0

    IT IS ONE THING NOTE THAT 3 SRI LANKAN COMPANIES ARE INVOLVED IN THIS AS PER LUKMAN. bUT IT IS ANOTHER MATTER TO SEE IF AND HOW AN INVESTIGATION WILL TAKE PLACE FROM OUR END AND THE CULPRITS ARE BROUGHT TO BOOK.

    sADLY AFTER A YEAR AND A HALF WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR THE ELUSIVE PERSON WHO IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE USD 500 MILLION IN A DUBAI BANK BEING BROUGHT BEFORE THE COURTS.

    AT A IME WHEN OUR CENTRAL BANK RESERVES ARE BEING PULLED AWAEY, WE WONDER WHY THE GOVT IS NOT FAST TRACKING THE PROCESS TO GET THE BILLIONS STACKED AWEY BY FORMER POLITICOS AS ALLEGED, SO THAT IT WILL HELP BOLSTER OUR COFFERS.

    WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH TALK, AND THE PUBLIC ARE SICK AND TIRED OF THE VERBAL DIARRHEOA OF THE WANSAS AND SO CALLED PIVITHURU TYPES WHO POSE AS PATRIOTS BUT ARE IN FACT SCOUNDRELS WHO HAVE TAKEN THAT AS THEIR LAST REFUGE.

  • 3
    0

    Good to know who these Sri Lankans are ? Also what happened to those Swiss Bank Account Exposures of Sri Lankans? Were they swept under the carpet? I don’t recall seeing or reading any names or exposures in this field, although there was a huge hue and cry about the number of Sri LANKANS who had “numbered Bank Accounts”. This is the problem with are law enforcing arms, there is never any enforcement although there are many “EXPOSURE”.

    It’s the same story right down the line to the smallest of crimes. All the laws are in place but the enforcements never see the light of day. What a set of bloody Morons we are. There is a saying “IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM ,JOIN ‘EM”. Seriously thinking of doing so !

  • 5
    1

    Panama Papers leak is used to throw mud at Putin, Xi Jing Ping and some dead leaders in the Arab world……….

    We all should be talking of that growling David cameron’s father IAN.
    probably, david must be carrying on the family business.

  • 3
    1

    18 billion ? lol the article lost its value with that figure.

    • 0
      0

      read the article right. it says Mangala says 18 Bn and the writer asking those who said that to prove by action.

  • 5
    0

    Guys, I will publish the list here and some of them are known to me..
    Remember, what Panama based company done was NOT illegal since so many wealthy families have trust funds all over the world including my self so that children are protected with family wealth.

    Khandaker Moinul Ahsan (Shamim)
    Kishore Hassaram Surtani
    Mohamed Ishan Gaffoor
    Murtazaali Abidhussen Hassanaly Esufally
    Ahmed Ismail Hossain
    Akhter Mahmud
    Aliakber Saifudeen Jeevunjee
    Esufally, Imtiaz Abidhusen Hassanally
    Farida Jeevunjee
    Hasan Mahmood (Raja)
    Imran Aliakber Jeevunjee
    Ejaz Chatoor
    Esufally, Bilquis Imtiaz

    AQUA-PACKAGING LIMITED

    Janki Jagasia
    Nilan Abeywickrama
    Niranjan Mendis
    Niranjan Sunil Oswald Mendis
    Omprasadham Kanapathipillai
    Rohan Albert Ignatius Gomis
    Sanikh Networks Limited
    Sanjay Vijith Anthony Perera
    Senaka Dunuwille Senanayake
    Sharecorp Limited
    Sharmila Wahab
    Shyamali Champika Ediriweera
    Somasundaram Mukunthan and Anne Christine Mukunthan
    Surendra Ediriweera
    Tushan & Dhammeswari
    Tushan Harsha Mendis Wickramasinghe
    Udu Wathuwage Jagath Priya Anura Sumithipala
    Vidya Dilruk Amarapala
    Jennifer Kathleen Senanayake
    Kaluachchigamage Avanthi Kumara Jayatilake
    Arthur I Senanayake
    Balendra Krishan Niraj Jayasekara
    Chandrajith Saman Kalyana Jayamaha Jayamaha Hitihamilage
    Chandrajith Saman Kalyana Jayamaha Jayamaha Hitihamilage
    Chandru Swamidas Jagasia
    Christian Ferdinand Fuhrer
    Daniel Ortiz
    Dimitry De Wansa Wickramaratne
    Duminda Mahali Weerasekare
    Lasitha Gamini Attygalle
    Jayawardane Welathanthirige Shilanth Boteju

  • 0
    0

    I am not sure what all the fuss is about. All the best people in the world have used these vehicles which are not illegal

  • 0
    0

    The main reason is gready for money. There should be a equal distribution of money. WHen that happens only the poverty level can be eradicated. Instead the have collects and collects even siphoning off the country where as the have not suffer and suffer. People behave as if they will never die and never realises that they have to leave everything behind when the call come from above.

    These businessmen make money by paying meagre salaries and making their profits bigger. The poor labour sweats out for the boss to have the best of lives.

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