Sri Lanka sets up panel to investigate 'Panama Papers'

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka announced on Sunday (May 1) it was setting up a special panel to chase after nationals likely to figure in the "Panama Papers," a trove of leaked documents on global tax evasion.

The government, which came to power in January last year on a promise to clean up corruption, has accused former president Mahinda Rajapakse and his family of siphoning off billions of dollars during his decade in power, a charge he has denied.

The new administration has also been weighed down by huge foreign loans taken out by the Rajapakse regime. Colombo last week secured an IMF bailout of US$1.5 billion to head off a balance of payments crisis.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said Colombo would investigate "each and every Sri Lankan" whose names were likely to come up when the Panama Papers became publicly available on May 9.

He accused the former government of failing to look into 46 Sri Lankans whose names came up in a 2013 probe known as the Offshore Leaks, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which is also behind the Panama Papers.

"Our panel will look into names that will come up in the Panama Papers as well as those already named in the Offshore Leaks," Karunanayake told reporters in Colombo.

The Panama Papers have become a global scandal, sparking investigations and resignations.

About 11.5 million leaked documents, from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, revealed the large-scale use of offshore entities to conceal assets from tax authorities.

- AFP

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