The legal community explained that in relation to anti-money laundering legislation, decisions concerning the freezing of and seizure of property should not be left solely in the hands of Police officers.

The lawyers outlined that since at present an Assistant Superintendent of Police could file an application for the freezing and seizure of assets, there was a requirement for a unit made up of lawyers, advisers, accountants, special investigators and the Police amongst others, to be set up to take such decisions.

Attorney-at-Law and Author of an electronic book titled ‘Law Relating to Prevention of Money Laundering’, President’s Counsel Kalinga Indatissa said that while the understanding of judges regarding the concept of money laundering was not quite there at present as the matter was something new in Sri Lanka, they would however within the next one to two years be educating themselves about it.

“On a couple of instances, the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) has not followed the law in relation to this,” he remarked.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime adopted by  General Assembly Resolution 55/25 of November 15, 2000, the 40 Recommendations on Money Laundering and nine Special Recommendations on Terrorist Financing by the Financial Action Task Force, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, No. 5 of 2006 as Amended by Act, No. 40 of 2011 (Consolidated Act), the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing Act, No. 25 of 2005, and the Financial Transactions Reporting Act, No. 6 of 2006, are the applicable laws with regards to money laundering.

Customer guidelines issued to licensed commercial banks/specialized banks and registered finance companies by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) must also be known. The FIU has a task force with procedures for financial tracking.

The lawyers highlighted the need to create awareness among all concerning money laundering.

The laws must be implemented and enforced respecting the rights of others and decisions cannot be political ones, he pointed out.

“There was, is and will be corruption. The laws and the measures in place are adequate. They have been made according to international requirements. The FCID receives trainings and this must continue. The laws can be used not just against politicians but for prosecuting every private citizen, company or entity engaging in money laundering. Extradition is also made possible by the laws along with mutual assistance,” he said.
He added that it takes a long time to identify the wealth allegedly illegally held by a regime as the money would be dumped overseas in investments. He said in such a context there was the natural obstacle of having to wait as even though the said regime may no longer be in power, the regime in the foreign country at the time of the investments being made may still be in power and therefore would refuse to give out information concerning such by way of using various laws available in the foreign jurisdiction in order to protect the ousted regime.

“Therefore, one has to wait for a regime change to take place in the foreign country in question too. Bad money can allow for the economic power of the country to go into the wrong hands,” Indatissa explained.