The assets of Rienzie Mahesh Kumara Edwards and his wife, Punya Priyanji Menike Edwards, two suspects in an international money laundering case, were frozen on Friday by the Financial Crimes Investigation Unit (FCIU) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), police confirmed. The order pertains to bank accounts and properties, Police Spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said. Mr [...]

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CID freezes assets of the Edwards on money laundering charges

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The assets of Rienzie Mahesh Kumara Edwards and his wife, Punya Priyanji Menike Edwards, two suspects in an international money laundering case, were frozen on Friday by the Financial Crimes Investigation Unit (FCIU) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), police confirmed.

The order pertains to bank accounts and properties, Police Spokesman Jaliya Senaratne said. Mr Edwards and his wife are now prevented from withdrawing the monies or making financial gain from their properties, which include a large number of houses and hotels. Their most well-known purchase is the land belonging to Asiri Central Hospital at 37, Horton Place, Colombo 7, which was acquired for Rs 2.7 billion.

The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID)–the forerunner to the FCIU–first started a domestic inquiry into Edwards’s activities after a complaint was filed regarding this same property. Bank documents related to the purchase were examined to determine how the transaction took place.

During this investigation, it was found that the wife of former FCID Director Senior DIG Ravi Waidyalankara had assumed directorship of an entity called Soorya International Corporation (Pvt) Ltd along with Punya Edwards. The company was registered to an apartment at Monarch Residencies in Kollupitiya. It had been bought by Mr Waidyalankara’s son, Asela, for Rs 52 million.

Friday’s freezing orders were issued under Section 7 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. This empowers the police to issue instructions prohibiting any transaction in relation to any account, property or investment which they have reasonable grounds to believe may have been used in connection with the offence of money laundering.

The orders are in force for seven days. Within this time, the issuing police officer must make an application in the High Court seeking confirmation of these orders and seeking an extension.

Mr. Edwards, a self-styled Sri Lankan investment banker and property owner, was taken to magistrate’s court by the FCID in 2015 for allegedly smuggling in more than US$ 40 million.

In 2017, he was also indicted by the US Attorney’s Office along with five others for allegedly defrauding victims of more than US$ 50 million. The indictment alleges that an unspecified percentage of this money was sent to bank accounts in Sri Lanka.

Mr Edwards received various sums from abroad amounting to millions of dollars. An examination of accounts (including those belonging to an intermediary) revealed millions of dollars or billions of rupees in inward remittances from names such as Chang Yau Hung Alexander, Golding Associates, Big Shoe World LLC, John De Here, Jerry M Bond, Yingjun Liang, Ng Chi Man, John Dudley Hare, Mong Wing Nin, Decagon Company Ltd, Ho Mei Mehi Trindy, C T Andy, Irani Mozaad and Carbogen Mining.

Foreign funds thus received amounted to US$ 55,084,865.50 and GBP 255,101.22. That is more than Rs 7.24 billion. Of this, more than Rs 5.82 billion was used to buy property.

Mr and Mrs Edwards–and, at times, Punya’s sister Jayakody Arachchilage Deepika Hasanji–were found to be directors of multiple companies. The majority of them are registered to 57/2B, Railway Avenue, Nugegoda.

They include Edwards Plantation Management (Pvt) Ltd (formed in 2007), Greenfield Consultancy Services Pvt Ltd (2012), and the Mansion Kandy (Pvt) Ltd (2012). Purchases were made in Punya Edwards’s name of four properties in Colombo 7, one in Kandy, three in Harispattuwa, three in Trincomalee, three in Galle, one in Anuradhapura and three in Nuwara Eliya.

Other companies are Asha Mansion (Pvt) Ltd (2016), High Rise Property Management (Pvt) Ltd (2015), Tradition Lanka (Pvt) Ltd (2014), Colombo Property Development (Pvt) Ltd (2015), Bond Street Management Services (Pvt) Ltd (2016), Tramwel Consultancy Services (Pvt) Ltd (2016), Edwards Estates Plantation (Pvt) Ltd (2007), Edwards Investment (Pvt) Ltd (2008).

Independent investigations by the Sunday Times show that the trio were also directors of companies registered abroad either singly or doubly. They include AAA Project Finance Solutions Pte Ltd (Singapore); AAA Turnkey Solutions, LLC (USA); Al Jazeera Al Hamra (Singapore); Fashion Platform Ltd (UK); GPH Equity Pte Ltd (Singapore); Green Asia Renewables Ltd (Dubai); Innovative Global Finance (Pvt) Ltd (Hong Kong); PGM Gems and Minerals (Dubai); Saving Traditions, Ltd (UK); Sirius San-Xing Financial Services (China); Steeplechase Middle East Fze (Dubai); and Supreme Global Holdings Ltd (Dubai).

It is also known that Edwards used multiple banks in many jurisdictions such as Barbados, the Netherlands, Britain, New York and Dubai.

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