Sri Lanka promises ‘no questions’ if Swiss bank cash brought back

Colombo, October 2

Sri Lanka, today, asked citizens holding Swiss bank accounts to redeposit the cash in their home country and promised there would be ‘no questions asked’ if they do.

Following a slump in official reserves, the Sri Lankan government is keen to get foreign cash, shoring up its reserves and stabilising the local currency.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said Sri Lankans could deposit their savings in local banks which offer rates several times more than those offered in international money markets.

“Sri Lankans could be holding about $6 billion to $8 billion in Swiss accounts,” Karunanayake told reporters. “We are telling them to bring that money and deposit in any banks here. There will be no questions asked.”

The plea comes after a number of Swiss banks told Sri Lankan depositors to take out their money and close their accounts, as part of restructuring moves.

The Sri Lankan rupee has depreciated by over six per cent against the dollar so far this year and official reserves fell to $6.88 billion by the end of July, from a peak of $9.18 billion in August 2014.

Despite this, the minister said confidence in the country had been restored following the change of government this year and Colombo’s improved international relations, particularly with the west and neighbouring India.

“The perception of the country has changed,” he said. “What is needed is confidence and we have that in place now.”

Sri Lanka ended a decades-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009, but failed to ensure ethnic reconciliation and faced international censure over its lack of investigation into allegations of war crimes.

However, a new government which came to power earlier this year agreed to investigate claims that security forces killed tens of thousands of civilians in the finals months of fighting.

The new administration has also vowed to bring back billions of dollars said to have been stolen and taken out of the country by members of the former regime of strongman Mahinda Rajapakse.