ECONOMYNEXT – Two relatives of Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have been named in Pandora papers, a global investigative journalism group-led analysis on documents related to offshore financial companies, showed.
Nirupama Rajapaksa, the cousin of both Sri Lanka’s president and Prime Minister, and her husband Thirukumar Nadesan have been named in the leaked Pandora papers that were investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with the BBC, the Washington Post, the Guardian, WDR/NDR (Germany) and others.
The cache includes 11.9 million files from companies hired by wealthy clients to create offshore structures and trusts in tax havens such as Panama, Dubai, Monaco, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. According to international media reports, it is the world’s largest ever leak of offshore data to have exposed financial secrets of rich and powerful people.
The Pandora papers expose the secret offshore affairs of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers and heads of state. They also shine a light on the secret finances of more than 300 other public officials such as government ministers, judges, mayors and military generals in more than 90 countries.
These include former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the King of Jordan, Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, and Pakistan’s political elite, among many others.
Nirupama Rajapaksa served as deputy minister of water supply and drainage in former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government from 2010 to 2015 and Nadesan has worked as a consultant and hotel entrepreneur.
“Nirupama Rajapaksa and Nadesan together controlled a shell company they used to buy luxury apartments in London and Sydney, and to make investments, according to leaked files,” the ICIJ said in its website after analyzing the document related to both Nirupama Rajapaksa and Nadesan.
“Nadesan set up other shell companies and trusts in secrecy jurisdictions, and he used them to obtain lucrative consulting contracts from foreign companies doing business with the Sri Lankan government and to buy artwork.”
In 2018, one of the companies, Pacific Commodities, transferred 31 paintings and other South Asian art pieces to the Geneva Freeport, an ultra-secure warehouse where assets are not subject to taxes or duties, it said.
“In confidential emails to Asiaciti Trust, a Singapore-based offshore services provider, a longtime adviser of Nadesan’s put his overall wealth, as of 2011, at more than $160 million. ICIJ couldn’t independently verify the figure.”
The ICIJ analysis showed Nadesan is connected with Concord Assets Inc, Pallene Investment Limited, Pacific Commodities Limited, Nadesan Trust, The Sri Nithi Trust, Pacific Trust, Challan Oil Exploration Limited, and Rosetti Limited.
Nirupama Rajapaksa had been connected with Challan Oil Exploration Limited, and Rosetti Limited, the analysis showed.
“Asiaciti Trust managed some of Nadesan’s offshore companies and trusts, with assets valued at about $18 million, according to an ICIJ analysis,” it said.
“The firm listed him as a politically connected individual because of his wife’s political position. Asiaciti kept the family as clients even after Nadesan was charged with embezzlement in 2016.”
On September 13, ICIJ journalist Scilla Alecci had written to both Nirupama Rajapaksa and Thirukumar Nadesan seeking some response on allegations against them. Alecci had inquired if Nirupama declared the Pacific Trust to tax authorities. She was found to be one of the beneficiaries of Pacific Trust which holds a $51 million art collection.
Alecci also asked for a source of wealth from Nirupama Rajapaksa’s husband Nadesan for 100 million pounds (USD 160 million), according to a 2011 document, and USD 18 million total in both the Sri Nithi Trust and the Pacific Trust in 2017.
The ICIJ analysis said both Nirupama Rajapaksa and Nadesan declined to answer the organisation’s questions about their trusts and companies.
Neither Nirupama Rajapaksa nor Nadesan was immediately available for comment.
Nadesan was arrested in 2016 in a luxury villa property that’s said to be linked to current Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa and was charged with embezzlement in connection with the real estate deal.
Both Nadesan and Basil Rajapaksa have denied wrongdoing.
Nigel Green, CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory, asset management and fintech organisations, said the Pandora papers are not representative of the wider offshore financial industry which typically helps hardworking people looking for better returns and more flexibility.
“When it comes to those who are in or have previously held political or royal office, and/or those who are actively seeking to break the law by hiding or ‘washing’ money, busting sanctions or evading tax, there must be complete transparency with financial dealings,” Green said in the statement.
“However, the vast majority of the millions of people, who use companies providing offshore financial products and services, are not representative of those high-profile names that have been disclosed in the Pandora Papers.”
“Indeed, the overwhelming number are hard-working, law-abiding individuals using fully legal and compliant solutions in order to seek out better returns, more options and greater flexibility,” it added. (Colombo/Oct05/2021)