Rajapaksas robbed Sri Lanka of $18billion, says minister
Sri Lankan government is working closely with four foreign nations to trace funds allegedly stashed away overseas by the former president and his family.
Colombo — Sri Lanka’s recently ousted president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family have siphoned off funds worth more than $18 billion, said the government on Thursday.
Addressing a media briefing, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that the Sri Lankan government is working closely with four foreign nations to trace funds allegedly stashed away overseas by the former president and his family.
This has come to light through a report sent to the government by foreign intelligence services, said the minister. “We believe that the Rajapaksas hold assets worth over $18 billion (approximate Rs237,933,000,000) in foreign countries,” he said.
“A probe has been launched into this matter,” he added.
Calling the former president of the country “one of the most corrupt politicians in the world,” Samaraweera said that investigation into the billions of dollars is in progress.
“A full scale investigation to find out where the wealth is hidden could take some time,” said Samaraweera, adding that it was an “extremely difficult task.”
The foreign minister told reporters that funds amounting to $2 billion allegedly stashed in Dubai have also been traced.
The government has claimed that the US, India, the World Bank and the United Nations are all helping trace the wealth allegedly stashed away overseas by the people in the previous regime. However, the foreign minister refused to name the four countries that are helping Sri Lanka trace the funds due to “ongoing investigations.”
The $18 billion which the Rajapaksas have allegedly swindled during their decade in power amounts to one fourth of the war-torn nation’s GDP. Rajapaksa has denied allegations that his family illegally transferred money overseas. He has also accused the current president Maithripala Sirisena, his one time ally, and his government of a “witch-hunt” involving his family and himself. “I would like to categorically state for the information of the public that neither me and my wife nor my sons maintain any illegal or secret offshore accounts in any foreign bank,” said Rajapaksa in a statement recently.
The Lankan police arrested and remanded Basil Rajapaksa, the former president’s younger brother last month on charges of mass financial fraud during his tenure as Economic Minister.
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