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HomeWorldAfricaFormer minister Nirupama Rajapaksa named in Panama papers

Former minister Nirupama Rajapaksa named in Panama papers

A member of Sri Lanka’s ruling political family had used shell companies and a trust in offshore locations to obtain “lucrative consulting contracts” from foreign companies, a massive leak of financial data of corporate services firms have revealed.

The disclosure is part of the ‘Pandora Papers’, a global investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) of 11.9 million files from 14 offshore service firms that help establish companies in secrecy jurisdictions.

The ICIJ reported on Sunday night that Nirupama Rajapaksa, a cousin of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s, and her husband, Thirukumar Nadesan, controlled a shell company used to buy luxury apartments in London and Sydney and also make investments.

“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.”

Nirupama had been deputy minister of water supply and drainage during the second presidential term of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

A year after Mahinda Rajapaksa lost his third term bid, Nadesan was charged under the Sirisena government of embezzlement in connection with a real estate deal involving another brother of the ruling family, Basil Rajapaksa. Both of them have denied any wrongdoing. Basil is also Sri Lanka’s finance minister.

As per the leaked records, one of their shell companies 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, in 2018.

Singapore-based offshore services provider, Asiaciti Trust, had managed Nadesan’s offshore companies and trusts, which held assets worth $18 million, as per ICIJ’s analysis. A 2011 email to Asiaciti showed that an adviser of Nadesan’s had put his total wealth at around $160 million.

Due to his Rajapaksa family connections, Asiaciti classified Nadesan as a ‘politically connected individual’. Under Singapore’s anti-money laundering rules, Asiaciti’s management had to approve all business with politically exposed persons (PEP) and also pinpoint the source of their wealth.

“Asiaciti kept the family as clients even after Nadesan was charged with embezzlement in 2016,” said the report.

Both Rajapaksa and Nadesan did not reply to questions from ICIJ. (Source – thewire.in)


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