Lanka to seek RBI help to trace money stashed abroad

The new Sri Lankan government on Thursday said it plans to seek assistance from the Reserve Bank of India, the World Bank and the IMF to trace billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth allegedly stashed abroad by persons close to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Colombo: The new Sri Lankan government on Thursday said it plans to seek assistance from the Reserve Bank of India, the World Bank and the IMF to trace billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth allegedly stashed abroad by persons close to former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The new government is aware that people who held high positions had hidden "billions of dollars" in foreign accounts, cabinet spokesman and Minister of Health, Rajith Senaratne said today.

Sri Lanka will seek help from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the RBI track down the wealth of key persons hidden abroad, he said.

"We will go after the foreign assets of Sri Lankans. Billions of dollars have been stolen and taken out of the country. We are taking steps to bring them back," Senaratne told the media.

He said based on a proposal by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the new administration had appointed a high powered ministerial committee to probe alleged financial misdeeds and corruption of the ousted Rajapaksa regime.

He said, experts from the financial intelligence unit of the RBI had also helped the new Indian government to track down some of the illegal foreign assets.

Sri Lanka lacks the expertise to track down such assets and agencies such as the IMF, World Bank are needed to get expert help.

Senaratne said the high powered anti-graft committee will have a rapid response committee to deal with complaints of corruption.

The Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption would be provided with muscle to deal effectively.

Senaratne said there have been large scale scams in the island's tiny stock market and many irregularities in property transactions during the previous regime. All these will be investigated.

The state media reported that at least two top individuals in the Rajapaksa administration had been served with a foreign travel suspensions following the Bribery Commission's action to prevent them from leaving the country in view of the ongoing investigations.

Since Rajapaksa lost the January 8 presidential election to his successor Maithripala Sirisena, the former government has faced a string of graft accusations.

Energy Minister Champika Ranawaka has accused Rajapaksa and his family, who controlled nearly 70 per cent of the national budget, of illegally transferring USD 5.38 billion from the economy.

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