The latest revelations of Pandora Papers show how Ramalingam Paskaralingam, a former adviser to three Sri Lankan leaders, created trusts and companies in the British Virgin Islands to hold millions of dollars, invest in a private college, and buy property in the U.K.
The ICIJ investigation is based on a leak of 11.9 million. Paskaralingam had not respond to ICIJ’s repeated comment requests.
Now in his 80s, Paskaraligam ー also known as “Paski” ー was more powerful than any minister during President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s government between 1988 and 1993, according to The Sunday Times, ICIJ’s partner in Sri Lanka. Even then, most large projects passed through him, the report said.
He also served as an adviser to caretaker President D.B. Wijetunga and former PM Ranil Wickeremesinghe.
“The biggest revelation in the Pandora Papers … is the sheer magnitude of the facilitation architecture for capital flight,” a spokesperson for Transparency International Sri Lanka told ICIJ.
The investigation “comes at a time when the economy is doing very badly, resulting in severe hardships to the citizens,” the spokesperson said. “In this context, news of unexplained wealth held offshore hit close to home.”
Meanwhile, Transparency International advocates and a political group in the opposition have also requested government agencies to release Nirupama Rajapaksa’s asset declarations for the years she served as an elected official. Last month, the election commission notified the opposition group that it’s under consideration.
“We are acutely conscious that the actual amounts of wealth hidden offshore would be so much more than this [reported by ICIJ] – and it remains a massive problem for developing nations such as Sri Lanka,” the Transparency International Sri Lanka spokesperson said.
With the help of financial service providers in Singapore and other financial hubs, Rajapaksa and Nadesan bought luxury homes in London and Sydney, and artworks using shell companies in low or zero tax rate jurisdictions, the leaked records show.
In one document, Nadesan’s advisers noted that one of his entities’ source of funds was consultancy services for foreign companies doing business with the Sri Lankan government.