Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development Dr. Harsha de Silva said the Sri Lankan government would certainly investigate into the assets in Seychelles belonging to the former first family in Sri Lanka and their closest associates.
“There are various ways through which we can conduct investigations. We can seek the assistance of private auditors and proceed with the matter. At the same time, we can conduct inquires with the help of the Stolen Assets Recovery Programme of the World Bank. The government can assure the public that no one will be able to hide the ‘stolen assets’ in Seychelles and dodge local law enforcement mechanism,” the Deputy Minister told Asian Mirror on Monday.
“Seychelles is known to be a safe haven for stolen assets and a money laundering hub. But, we, as a government, have realized the gravity of this matter,” de Silva also added.
The Deputy Minister, when he was in the opposition, said that embezzled funds, including money swindled from development projects in Si Lanka, were deposited in Swiss banks through Seychelles.
Due to strict laws adopted by Switzerland, he said, the amount of funds deposited in Swiss banks under Sri Lankan addresses had decreased in recent years while deposits through Seychelles had drastically increased.
“The population in Seychelles is slightly more than 90,000 but the deposits under the addresses of that country are worth about 3,000 million Swiss Francs last year, which is higher than the accumulated deposits under Sri Lankan addresses,” he told media.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, nearly seven months before his visit, opened a Sri Lankan High Commission in Seychelles while setting up a branch of the Bank of Ceylon in the island.Despite its population which does not exceed 90,000, Mihin Lanka, an airline started under directives from former President Rajapaksa, started a direct flight to the island last year.