Pandora Papers emblematic of a failed justice system

Tuesday, 16 May 2023 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Two and a half years ago, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) uncovered the financial secrets of more than 330 politicians in 91 countries and exposed a shadow economy thriving in offshore or secret jurisdictions. Among the group were former minister Nirupama Rajapaksa, niece of then President and later Prime Minister, and her husband, Thirukumar Nadesan. 

The documents reveal that Rajapaksa and Nadesan together controlled a shell company used to buy luxury apartments in London and Sydney, and art while using them also to make numerous other investments. The amount of money stashed in these offshore accounts by the Sri Lankan duo is in the range of $ 160 million. 

As soon as these revelations were made in 2021, then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa directed the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption to launch an immediate investigation into the alleged malpractice and report to him of the findings within a month. In November 2021, the Presidential Secretariat issued a press release stating that the Bribery Commission had handed over an interim report to the President regarding their investigations. 

Even though the interim report was not made public, the press release stated that the Director-General of the Commission had informed that the various banks and financial institutions have been requested to submit reports containing the bank account details of Thirukumar Nadesan. As the investigation has not been completed, the final report will be issued after further scrutinising the called reports and other relevant investigations are carried out,” the Presidential Secretariat said.

Despite the lapse of two and a half years and a change in the highest office in the country, nothing has been heard since the investigation.

The Pandora Papers saga is emblematic of the systemic corruption that is permeating throughout the governing structure of the country. The individual concerned wields influence throughout the political spectrum and therefore has immunity from justice whoever is in power. He is not an exception but the norm and representative of an oligarchy that has emerged to the greater detriment of the public. 

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in its post-independence history. The details of the Pandora Papers is in the public domain simply because they were investigated and exposed by international entities. These are only the tip of the iceberg of the colossal corruption and misappropriation of funds that occur regularly in this country. There is hardly a stir within the criminal justice system after none other than the Justice Minister has accused individuals of receiving bribes to the tune of $ 250 million. It has been weeks since Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe claimed in Parliament that there have been transfers in the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars to certain accounts in order to interfere with the proceedings into the Court cases concerning the X-Press Pearl maritime disaster. To date there is no news of any action taken by the law enforcement authorities or the bribery commission concerning this allegation. 

If Sri Lanka is to stand any chance of saving itself from its current economic woes, political leaders entrusted with public finances must regain the trust of the public. They must also make a clear commitment to investigate and prosecute those who have been accused of wrongdoing in the Pandora Papers and many such scandals.