Sri Lankan police are investigating a large-scale money laundering case based in Colombo, that reportedly extends to the Maldives.
Local police representatives say no significant case has been filed with Maldivian authorities so far.
According to local media, money was being transferred from the Maldives to various illegal money transfer agents in neighboring Sri Lanka. The money is suspected to be used for such criminal activities as purchasing and distributing narcotics and other contraband.
Last week, Rs. 81.76 million (Rf11.4 million) was seized at Sri Lanka Customs, the largest amount of foreign currency to be detected at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Haveeru reports that dollars from Australia, Canada and the US, as well as sterling pounds, Kuwaiti dinars, UAE Dirhams, Saudi Riyals, Swiss Francs and Euros were included in the stash.
Local police reported no case being lodged regarding the money laundering circuit in Colombo, and cautioned that the information that was given to local media regarding the transport of finances from the Maldives might not be reliable.
Officials did say that money laundering has been a problem in the Maldives. Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that “the issue of money laundering in the Maldives is growing, and credit cards are being abused more.”
An official from the Fraud and Financial Branch said there have been suspicions of money laundering, but charges can not be pressed for that alone. “Individuals have been charged for drug possession, which might be related to money laundering, but we are currently unable to prosecute someone for money laundering alone. We plan to work on that in the future,” he said.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports state that money laundering became a bigger concern internationally post-9/11, when it became heavily linked to terrorism. Although many countries have since adopted IMF anti-money laundering (AML) policies, few have developed legislation to enforce these guidelines.
The latest IMF review of Sri Lanka, dated 2008, indicated that AML standards were adopted by signature but that legislation was not in place. A 2011 review of the IMF program found that international organizations were cooperative, but did not indicate that individual governments and banks had adopted AML procedures.
Sri Lankan police have conducted raids on unauthorized money transfer agencies in the past few weeks, reports Haveeru. Earlier this month the Colombo Fraud Bureau, an arm of the Sri Lankan police force, arrested several suspects and seized approximately Rs. 9 million (Rf1.25 million) in foreign currency, Haveeru reports.
Four key Maldivian narcotics peddlers who were busted by Maldivian authorities in June for their involvement in the smuggling of narcotics via Colombo to Male since 2005 had allegedly used a prominent money transfer agency in Colombo, reports Haveeru.