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TISL Invites Public Comments on the Proposed Law on Recovery of Stolen Assets

Grand corruption has long plagued Sri Lanka, undermining the country’s economic development and eroding public trust in the government. Citizens have been increasingly vocal in their demand for justice, transparency, and the return of illicitly acquired wealth to benefit the nation. The Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) intends to provide a legal framework for tracing, seizing, recovering, and managing illicitly acquired assets hidden offshore, ensuring that perpetrators of corruption are held accountable and that stolen assets are returned to their rightful owners—the people of Sri Lanka.

Recognizing the absence of a comprehensive and consistent legislative framework in Sri Lanka for the purpose mentioned, there has been a longstanding call for new legislation. Recent stipulations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of a structural benchmark necessitated the enactment of legislation on stolen asset recovery by March 2024, aligning with the standards set forth in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

The Ministry of Justice in its official website has now published the ‘Report of the Committee to Develop the Policy and Legal Framework and Draft Provisions of the Proposed Law on Proceeds of Crime’ dated April 10, 2024. The 17-Member Committee is headed by Supreme Court Justice Yasantha Kodagoda, PC.

The Report includes a draft Bill comprising of eleven parts dealing with, ‘General Provisions and Offences; Investigations into Proceeds of Crime, Restraint and Seizure; Judicial Freezing of Proceeds of Crime; Protection, Preservation, and Management of Proceeds of Crime; Forfeiture Proceedings; Civil Remedy for Victims of Crime; Proceeds of Crime Management Authority; Disposal of Forfeited Proceeds of Crime and the Utilization of the Value Derived thereof; Victims of Crime Reparation Trust Fund; International Cooperation; and Miscellaneous Provisions’.

Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) is concerned that the published Report was drafted without any public consultation, demonstrating Sri Lankan government's flagrant disregard for public and civil society consultation in the formulation of a key anti-corruption legislation such as the POCA. The POCA, designed to recover and manage stolen assets, is a crucial piece of legislation that requires comprehensive input from diverse stakeholders, including the public, civil society, and local experts, to ensure its effectiveness and alignment with democratic principles. It is also concerning that the IMF, which was providing technical assistance to this process seems to have condoned the lack of a proper, transparent and consultative process.

In response to this critical need, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) extends an invitation to the public to review and provide specific feedback on the proposed law regarding the POCA. Such feedback can be submitted via email to tisl@tisrilanka.org with the subject line “Feedback for the proposed law on Proceeds of Crime”. While the exact timeline for the Bill's presentation to Parliament remains uncertain, TISL commits to forwarding all received feedback to the Ministry of Justice for consideration.

TISL calls upon the government to take adequate time and genuinely engage in meaningful dialogue with the public, local experts, and civil society actors to ensure that the legislation is robust, in line with the Constitution, upholds the rights of citizens, reflects the aspirations of the Sri Lankan people and serves as a valuable tool for transparency and accountability.

The published POCA draft

Propossed-law-on-Proceeds-of-crime

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