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Will foreign assistance be sought on Pandora probe? 

By Pamodi Waravita 

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) yesterday (24) questioned whether the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Act No. 24 of 2018 will be used to seek assistance from foreign countries as part of the investigation into the allegations recently revealed by the Pandora Papers against Nirupama Rajapaksa and Thirukumar Nadesan. 

Speaking at a press conference held yesterday, JVP Politburo member Sunil Handunetti said that the Central Authority set up under the Justice Ministry Secretary as per the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters (Amendment) Act No. 24 of 2018 could be used to seek assistance from foreign powers into the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) investigation regarding the revelations in the Pandora Papers. 

“The discussion into the Pandora Papers is being misled and covered up now. The public has a right to know where the investigation is heading. Is this going to just be limited to a CIABOC investigation, or will there be a more transparent one done as well? Are they only going to fine the alleged perpetrators for not declaring their assets or are they going to reveal the entire truth of these deals to the country?” questioned Handunnetti. 

Nirupama – the niece of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Minister of Finance Basil Rajapaksa – and Nadesan had been named in the recent International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ) Pandora Papers files leak. 

“Is the investigation only going to be limited to collecting a few statements from a limited number of individuals? This type of corruption is not just limited to one person – this is not the exception, this is the norm,” added Handunetti.  

The documents allege that the couple were involved in the dealings of shell companies (inactive companies used as vehicles for various financial manoeuvres or kept dormant for future use in some other capacity) located in tax havens, which obtained lucrative consulting contracts from foreign companies doing business with the Government of Sri Lanka. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on 6 October, instructed the CIABOC to launch an immediate investigation into the allegations against Sri Lankans implicated in the Pandora Papers files leak in connection with transactions, including the maintenance of large cash deposits. Presidential Secretariat Legal Affairs Director General and Attorney-at-Law Harigupta Rohanadheera, in his letter to the CIABOC, has requested a report regarding the matter within a month from 6 October. However, neither Nirupama Rajapaksa nor Nadesan were named in the letter. Nadesan has been called into CIABOC twice to make statements so far, whilst the CIABOC also said that it is currently studying the documents received from the Inland Revenue Department of Sri Lanka (IRD) and local banks.