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Sunday September 24th, 2023

Sri Lanka identifies informal money remitters as high-risk under money laundering

Sri Lanka’s central bank has identified informal money remitters who transfer money through hawala and undiyal possessing high-risk in the island nation’s money laundering activity, while real estate agents, banking sector, and finance companies are identified as possessing medium high risk, a report showed.

The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in its latest Sanitized Report of the Second National Risk Assessment (NRA) on Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing (ML/TF) said the overall money laundering terrorist finance risk for the country was assessed as Medium.

Sri Lanka has identified money laundering as one of the key issues that has led to deprive tax revenue to the government. Government officials say the recent tax hikes in line with the IMF conditions for a $3 billion loan has not raised the tax income as expected.

The assessment highlights the most significant ML/TF threats, vulnerabilities, and risks faced by Sri Lanka.

“The NRA is an important step for any jurisdiction to identify, assess and understand its threats and vulnerabilities exposing the country to ML/TF risks and the offences generating the most proceeds of crime,” the Central Bank said in a statement.

“This Assessment is an important resource available to both the public and the private sectors to understand the current illicit finance environment and to educate them of risk mitigation strategies.”

“Further, by better understanding the current risk environment, respective stakeholders, from now onwards can effectively allocate more resources to the high-risk areas to safeguard the integrity of Sri Lanka’s  financial system.”

The NRA has identified Drug Trafficking, Bribery and Corruption, Customs related Offences including Laundering of Trade-Based Proceeds, as the most prevalent predicate offences, where ML threat was rated as medium high.

Fraud, Robbery, Environmental and Natural Resource Crimes recorded as having a medium level of ML threat. Human Smuggling/Trafficking, Tax Offences, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing related unlawful activities were assessed as having a medium low ML threat while lower ML threat was observed for Counterfeiting of Currency, it said.

Analysts say Sri Lankan authorities are jointly working with the IMF and World Bank to minimise these risks and raise the government’s tax revenue as well as improve the doing business index to attract more foreign investment into the country.

The island nation declared sovereign debt default last year after facing an unprecedented economic and debt crisis.

The central bank said some of the recommendations made in the NRA includes bringing necessary amendments to relevant laws, introduction of new laws, strengthening institutional framework, capacity building for investigators, prosecutors, judiciary, supervisors and increasing supervision of Designated Non-Finance Businesses and Professions, such as Real Estate Agents, Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones, Casinos, Accountants and Lawyers.

“Further, the need for development of comprehensive databases and taking actions to expedite the prosecutions and convictions on ML/TF were also identified, while improving the interagency co-operation in the fight against ML/TF, was also recommended,” it said.

The assessment covers the period from 2016-2022 and relevant data and statistics were sourced from all stakeholder agencies, some of which were represented in the core working groups. Sri Lanka received technical assistance and the tool kit from the World Bank to carry out the NRA. (Colombo/September 14/2023)

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Sri Lanka India industrial zone around Trinco, maritime links mooted

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ports Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had highlighted the desire of both the Governments to work closely to develop the industrial zone at Trincomalee, after accepting an invitation to participate in a maritime summit.

The Global Maritime India Summit (GMIS) will be held in India from October 17-19, 2023 at Mumbai where Sri Lanka has been invited at a partner country.

At a curtain raiser event on September 22, India’s High Commissioner in Colombo, Gopal Baglay had said both countries were working on enhancing sea connectivity according to a vision document launched during a recent visit of the President of Sri Lanka to India.

Minister de Silva will lead a delegation from Sri Lanka to the summit.

Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, T K Ramachandran said the Global Maritime India Summit aims strengthen the Indian maritime economy by promoting global and regional partnerships and facilitating investments.

The event will give an opportunity to the Government of Sri Lanka to attracting greater investment from India in development of its maritime infrastructure, Ramachandran said.

It will also facilitate greater business to business interactions. (Colombo/Sept24/2023)

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Sri Lanka brings back import para tariff on milk

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has brought back an import para tariff called the Ports and Airports Levy, to several grades of milk powder.

Milk powder has been removed from a list of PAL exemptions, making them liable for a 10 percent tax.

The PAL para tariffs are also a contentious issue in terms of export competitiveness, and the government has previously given undertakings that they will be eliminated.

Trade freedoms of the poor figure in an IMF/World bank reform program with the governments.

Milk is a protein rich food, in a country where children of poor families are facing stunting and malnutrition.

Economic nationalism is seen at high levels in food, with several businessmen are pushing for trade protection, amid an overall autarkist (self-sufficiency) ideology, going directly against policies followed in East Asia, which the same as hold up as examples.

Sri Lanka keeps dairy product prices up ostensibly to bring profits to a domestic dairy company and farmers.

Sri Lanka also keeps maize prices up, ostensibly to give profits to farmers and collectors. (Colombo/Sept22/2023)

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Sri Lanka govt warns liquor manufacturers: pay defaulted tax or lose licence

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka government which is struggling to raise the state revenue despite   higher taxes, has warned liquor manufacturers to pay defaulted taxes or lose their licence.

The government is now getting tough with past tax defaulters amid concerns over falling short of this year’s revenue target agreed with the International Monetary Fun (IMF).

“Liquor manufacturing firms owe us 660 crore rupees (6.6 billion rupees),” Siyambalapitiya told  reporters on Thursday (21).

“Most of this or around a third is the only excise tax amount to be paid. The rest is penalty. If a liquor manufacturer does not pay on time, we impose a penalty of 3 percent per month This means 36 percent (penalty) per annum,” he said.

“We have given them deadline to repay the basic excise taxes. If they don’t pay, we will cancel their licence.”

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government committed an ambitious revenue target among many other reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return to a $3 billion loan package.

However, the revenue could face a short fall of 100 billion rupees, State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya has said.

A new Central Bank Act also has legally prevented the government of printing money at its discretion as  in the past.  (Colombo/September 24/2023)

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