Lankans Don’t Need Offshore Banking Facilities

Lankans Don’t Need Offshore Banking Facilities

by Gamini Weerakoon

Well known tax adviser Double Entry Silva was addressing an ‘urgent’ meeting of the Sri Lanka Tax Avoidance Union.

“Some of you in the audience, prior to this meeting, told me that it was a crying shame that so few Sri Lankan names and organisations have appeared in the Panama Papers. We are now supposed to be a middle income country. How come we don’t have enough wheeler-dealers to have secret offshore bank accounts? Don’t we have Camerons, Putins, Porshenkos of Ukraine, or even one like the King of Saudi Arabia,” they asked me.

“No International ‘Thathvaya’ no? All these talks of 7 per cent GDP for so many years is hogwash,” one member claimed.

“My advice to you is: There is no point in trying to rub shoulders with Camerons, Putins, King of Saudi or Arab sheiks in offshore banking because we don’t have to.

“We Sri Lankans don’t pay tax, so why bother about tax havens?” Sri Lanka is a tax haven.

“That’s what Ravi Karunanayake and finance ministers before him have been complaining about: Poor revenue collection. Only a small category of employees, whose taxes are deducted from pay packets as income tax, are tax payers. But all of us pay taxes indirectly every day for the bread, rice, parippu, onions, etc. So why take the trouble to smuggle our money into tax havens to exotic places like the Panama or into Caribbean like to the British Virgin Islands?”

 

No offshore Accounts?

Viplava Satanmaga: You are dodging the question. Non-payment of taxes doesn’t mean there are no tax dodgers who are pumping money into offshore banks. Panama Papers have revealed multiple shell companies have deposited in Panama.

What of the New Rich? Look at the sleek new vehicles on the roads; Mercedes, BMWs, Volvos, Lexus, etc. of the newest and best brands. Going by their increasing number, they will be overtaking the numbers of imported used cars on the roads. Who imported the sleek luxury chariots and who paid import duty taxes, if duty was paid at all?

Hippocket Wickrema, This-Way-That-Way Broker of renown: Most of those seek posh cars mentioned by Viplava are those that belong to MPs, given duty free by government. Viplava wants to revive a revolution that is dead and gone. We are now benefitting from crony capitalism.

In this set up the government gives out a contract to someone and 60 per cent of the funds are used while 40 per cent is pocketed but the work is completed. In the socialist set up no work is done and 100 per cent is pocketed. That’s why we saw rapid growth in the past few years. Crony capitalism works.

Kasaseeli Kahambiliya, leading women activist: All this is prevarication. We are talking about money in off shore bank accounts. Who owns them?

Government Spokesman, Nallan Sell-vam: Finding names and persons in off shore banks very difficult.

Investigators say that a few years ago trailblazers found their way to Seychelles and from there like the original migrant from Africa, went on the Middle East, Dubai, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Hong Kong to Luxemburg from where the trail disappeared… may have gone to Belize, Dominica, Bahamas and St Vincent… could have ended in Panama.

Jatika Sinhale: All this is koheda yanne malle pol talk – dialogue of the deaf. (Whither bound, coconuts in the bag).

Our leader spoke of making Sri Lanka a financial hub. Now Ranil Wickremesinghe is also talking of making Sri Lanka a hub for many things. I propose we make our country an offshore banking hub.

Viplava: You objected to a casino, now you want off shore banking? Who’s going to deposit funds in the Colombo offshore bank?

This –Way-That-Way: Or course the Indians. They already have had many off shore enterprises such as on Sea Street for long years. The currency is solid gold. Hisain Velvettithurai for years. Velupillai in his younger days was a courier in VVT.

Jatika Sinhale: But Sri Lankans won’t invest in an Indian offshore bank. They are strongly opposing the ECTA. We will invite the Chinese and open a branch in the Colombo Port City.

 

Where’s the money going?

Double Entry Silva: My point is that Sri Lankans don’t pay tax. Where are they investing that money – in well-known offshore banks?

Prof Arthika Kokatath Thailaya: Offshore banking is not in accordance with Bandaranaike policies and is an American creation. We don’t need these parasitic organisations because we already have very lucrative time-tested informal investment methodologies.

The best investment in Sri Lanka is politics. Non-income tax paying investors in silent mode are investing in politics. Invest in the two main political parties but make sure that the parties don’t know your double investment policy.

You may know what happened to a Hospital Mudalali who backed both sides about two decades ago. The leader who emerged was informed of the Hospital Mudalali’s double investment insurance policy and was out in the cold for many years.

But investment in politics can get you the very best such as, a ministerial portfolio of your desire with no questions asked about official financial disbursements till recent times. Top government appointments as you please for your family, relations and cronies. Foreign junkets for self and family. Free bungalow in Colombo 7 all bills paid. A good five years of carefree life and unlimited facilities to vilify opponents. Opportunities for many avenues of unofficial income and many more unmentionable perks.

The next best investment is in religion. Invest in the correct religious personality and sky is the limit. A telephone call by your investment source can bring the high and mighty to your feet. Liquor licences, drawing millions a month can be yours for the asking. Besides you too can be in business such as in million rupee illicit liquor manufacturing business and even a commission agent for many other businesses. There is money and power in piety.

You can be at home-sweet-home drowning in a heat wave and churning out green backs in rupees or dollars or even afford to be in some temperate climes — city or country – enjoying your ill-gotten income. We Sri Lankans don’t need off shore banking accounts. We are a tax haven!