An investigative media report on the illicit dealings and assets of politicians, including a number of heads of state, the Pandora Papers, has revealed details of another person in Sri Lanka.
A recent report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has revealed the name of Ramalingam Paskaralingam who was an adviser to several former Sri Lankan presidents and prime ministers.
Ramalingam Paskaralingam, fondly known as ‘Paski’, has served as a government official and as an advisor to three Sri Lankan leaders.
He served under President Ranasinghe Premadasa, who was assassinated in 1993, and later served under the President-in-charge DB Wijetunga. Paskaralingam served as the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance from 1989 to 1994.
From 2002 to 2004, and again from 2015 to 2018, he served as an economic adviser to then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Paskaralingam last held government posts as the Economic Adviser to former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in the Good Governance Government and was the head of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management headed by Wickremesinghe, through which he obtained projects and contracts.
Paskaralingam, now in his 80s, has served in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service for 34 years. He has been the Secretary to the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Highways as well as the Ministry of Finance. He has also worked as a consultant on foreign project implementation for 17 years and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from a local university.
The Pandora report states that in 1997, a government commission found that Paskaralingam and three other senior politicians had abused their power to grant contracts to loyal companies pocketing large commissions. They have quoted media reports in this regard. However, Paskaralingam, who visited the UK in 1994, has denied the allegations. According to local media, the Supreme Court cancelled the commission’s findings over technical reasons.
In 2012, Paskaralingam established a trust in the British Virgin Islands. According to corporate records, his job is listed as ‘retired’. The Pandora report states that he listed himself and other members of his family as beneficiaries. The trust also owns a British Virgin Islands company and a Singaporean company, as well as shares in Horizon College of Business and Technology, a private school in Colombo.
The report points out that Paskaralingam closed the trust after ICIJ’s investigation into ‘confidentiality for sale’ revealed the offshore business of a Singapore supplier the following year. According to confidential emails, he had immediately abandoned it without any plans.
He later created a new one at BVI for his son and son-in-law. In 2014, officials at Trident Trust, the trust’s supervising provider, expressed concern over a secret e – mail with Paskaralingam’s advisers who initially demanded $ 100,000 to invest in the college, which was later labeled as “personal expenses.”
In 2015, Paskaralingam instructed the Trident Trust to transfer $ 2.6 million from the above trust to him so that he could invest in the UK property where his family lived. The following year the Paskaralingam Trust closed. According to a confidential email, he was assigned shares in BVI, an indirect investment in the school.
The Pandora report also states that Paskaralingam did not respond to repeated requests from ICIJ to comment on the matter. Meanwhile, Upul Daranagama, president of the Horizon College of Business and Technology (HCBT) had told ICIJ that Paskaralingam had invested in the school in 2008 when he was not in government service. “He invested his personal wealth,” Daranagama had said.
Through his Singaporean company, St. John’s Investment, Daranagama said he still owns 80% of Horizon College but has never been involved in school business or administration.
Daranagama said the school had not transferred any money to Paskaralingam’s foreign companies. The Pandora report quotes that Daranagama had said, ‘We did not send a single penny from Colombo. His goal is not really to make money.”