Sri Lanka
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    Profile

    Sri Lanka

    Capital

    Colombo/Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 84,008.78 million

    Income group

    Lower middle income

    Population

    21,803,000

    Area

    65,610 km²

    Geography type

    Island

    4.64

    Criminality score

    110th of 193 countries

    33rd of 46 countries in Asia

    6th of 8 countries in Southern Asia

    Criminal market

    4.65

    Human trafficking

    5.50

    Human smuggling

    6.00

    Arms trafficking

    5.00

    Flora crimes

    3.00

    Fauna crimes

    4.50

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    3.00

    Heroin trade

    6.00

    Cocaine trade

    3.00

    Cannabis trade

    5.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    5.00

    Criminal actors

    4.63

    Mafia-style groups

    4.00

    Criminal networks

    5.00

    State-embedded actors

    7.00

    Foreign actors

    2.50

    4.04

    Resilience score

    129th of 193 countries

    28th of 46 countries in Asia

    4th of 8 countries in Southern Asia

    Political leadership and governance

    4.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    3.50

    International cooperation

    5.50

    National policies and laws

    5.50

    Judicial system and detention

    3.50

    Law enforcement

    3.50

    Territorial integrity

    4.00

    Anti-money laundering

    5.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    5.00

    Victim and witness support

    3.00

    Prevention

    2.50

    Non-state actors

    3.50

    4.04 4.63 4.65 4.04 4.63 4.65

    4.04

    Resilience score

    129th of 193 countries

    28th of 46 countries in Asia

    4th of 8 countries in Southern Asia

    Political leadership and governance

    4.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    3.50

    International cooperation

    5.50

    National policies and laws

    5.50

    Judicial system and detention

    3.50

    Law enforcement

    3.50

    Territorial integrity

    4.00

    Anti-money laundering

    5.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    5.00

    Victim and witness support

    3.00

    Prevention

    2.50

    Non-state actors

    3.50

    Analysis

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    People

    Sri Lanka is a source, destination and transit country for human trafficking, mostly in the form of sexual exploitation and child-sex tourism. The country is also a waypoint for Nepali women trafficked into the Middle East and subjected to labour exploitation there. Occasionally, European nationals have been accused of facilitating the trafficking of Sri Lankans to Europe via India; however, it may be the case that this is actually human smuggling as workers are able to return home, but may feel unable to because of incurred debt or financial predicaments.

    Sri Lanka is both a source and transit country for a sizeable human smuggling market. Sri Lankan female domestic workers are primarily smuggled to the Middle East, Italy and Cyprus, as well as South-eastern and Eastern Asia, through falsified job contracts and employment offers. Additionally, Sri Lanka acts as a key transit point for people smuggled from Africa and the Middle East with final destinations in South-eastern Asia or the Pacific region. Friends and families sometimes facilitate smuggling, and on occasion, agents or other contacts accompany smuggled people for part of the journey. Evidence suggests there has been a surge in irregular migration from Sri Lanka to Australia.

    Trade

    Sri Lanka hosts a significant arms trafficking market. While there is a demand for arms trafficking mostly driven by local demand from business people, politicians and their supporters, demand was much higher during the civil war. The current supply of illegal arms is not a result of significant inflows of illegal weapons into the country, but rather of war time weapons ending up in the hands of criminal networks. Arms trafficking is believed to occur primarily in Puttalam, Kalmunai in the Ampara district and Ikirigollewa in Medawachchiya, where locals allegedly smuggle arms while trading dried fish. Criminal gangs linked to arms trafficking operate in western Sri Lanka in Colombo and Budulla, and in southern Sri Lanka in Galle and Matara. Illegal arms manufacturing is believed to occur mostly in rural areas, primarily to produce small armsand T-56 ammunition.

    Environment

    Sri Lanka is predominantly a transit country for illegal wood from Africa to Asia. The tropical hardwood furniture market largely drives the illicit logging of rosewood and other rare hardwoods. Sri Lankais also a key transit point in fauna trafficking that occurs between Africa and Southern Asia or South-eastern Asia and the Pacific. In addition, the fishing and harvesting of sea cucumber as well as shark fins, driven by foreign demand, contributes to the illegal wildlife trade in the country. In regard to non-renewable resource crimes, Sri Lanka is primarily a transit country for illicit oil trade and gold smuggling. Much of the gold smuggling to India takes place via maritime routes, especially from northern Sri Lanka to India's Tamil Nadu province. Some smuggling of gold also occurs via commercial flights.

    Drugs

    Sri Lanka is a transit point for Afghan heroin transported by dhow to Mozambique. Additionally, as the Pakistan-India route is strictly monitored, heroin is smuggled through Sri Lanka into India. As Karachi, in Pakistan, is considered a high-risk point of origin, it is likely that heroin transported by ocean freight to Western Europe, and Rotterdam more specifically, is now shipped from Colombo instead. This reduces the probability of containers being searched, as Colombo is not consideredhigh-risk. Heroin is also the most widely used drug in the country and a large domestic heroin market exists. Sri Lanka is predominantly a transit country for cocaine, with the trafficking of liquid cocaine presenting a significant challenge to authorities. Notably, Sri Lankan police have reported increasing instances of criminal gangs masking cocaine shipments to Australia and Europe in Sri Lankan containers. The domestic cocaine trade is quite small as cocaine use is mostly limited to elite circles.

    The cannabis trade is one of Sri Lanka’s larger criminal markets and the country is a source and transit point, with local production used mainly to satisfy domestic demand. This is characterized by a rising rate in youth consumption. Cultivation is mostly situated in dry zones in the southern and eastern provinces, with around 500 hectares of land used to grow cannabis. This is likely to have increased, especially since 2017, when floods in the southern part of the country damaged the tea industry, reportedly propelling many into cannabis cultivation in an attempt to offset financial difficulties. Sri Lanka also serves as a transit country for synthetic substances sourced from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan moving through Colombo and Malé, in the Maldives, to richer economies. Overall, however, the illicit trade in synthetic drugs is smaller than other criminal markets in Sri Lanka. Although it is not a major manufacturer of synthetic drugs or precursor chemicals, the use of amphetamine-type stimulants and other synthetic drugs, is on the rise in Sri Lanka with local demand stemming primarily from the youth and the nightlife scene. It appears that some of the logistical infrastructure used for the maritime smuggling of heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan is now also being used to transport meth.

    Criminal Actors

    There are at least 30 known mafia-style groups active in Sri Lanka, including some that emerged from militant groups or political parties during the civil war, most notably the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or Tamil Tigers. These mafia-style groups appear to be focusing their efforts on drug trafficking. At present, narco-political gangs operate primarily in the south and west of the country. However, most of them tend to maintain a much lower profile than the LTTE. Meanwhile, loose criminal networks present a significant problem across Sri Lanka and are mostly involved in drug trafficking. Although violence occurs due to gang rivalries, violence against civilians is rare.

    Transnational linkages with other international organized crime networks are known to exist, facilitated largely by maritime crime related to human and drug trafficking. These foreign actors wield some influence and financial power, and use the knowledge of local partners to evade detection along Sri Lanka’s porous borders. As for state-embedded actors, they are believed to engage extensively in organized crime. There are widespread accusations of extortion, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings as well as recruitment of child soldiers. Allegations that corrupt law enforcement personnel sell firearms to mafia groups have also been made. Criminal network activities have allegedly been normalized due to corruption among police and politicians. It has been further suggested that the government has institutionalized criminality with the ruling elite allegedly exerting influence over every aspect of the economy, operating similar to a mafia structure.

    Leadership and governance

    Although organized crime is a significant issue in Sri Lanka, political rhetoric on the matter has rarely turned into legislation. Reports indicate that citizens’ trust in the Sri Lankan government has decreased dramatically because of rampant corruption, a lack of transparency and accountability, as well as a lack of equal representation of certain groups. Additionally, many citizens fear government surveillance and harassment. Reports indicate that the government functions as a family enterprise; it is centralized and has little oversight. At the same time, Sri Lanka has taken several steps towards preventing and countering corruption through its national action and anti-corruption programs. Furthermore, since the end of the civil war, there have been efforts to seek accountability for war crimes, but these have now been abandoned. An independent anti-corruption agency was established to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption. Nevertheless, government efforts to address organized crime have generally taken a backseat.

    At an international level, Sri Lanka is a signatory to several anti-organized crime initiatives. However, the question of how active a member the country is, is debatable. Additionally, Sri Lanka participates in multiple regional initiatives targeting corruption and transnational crime. Sri Lanka also has bilateral extradition treaties in place, as well as a bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty. At the national level, the country relies heavily on its penal code to convict human traffickers. The country has also implemented national hotlines and forest watch websites for locals and tourists to report environmental crimes.

    Criminal justice and security

    Corruption is rampant in Sri Lanka’s judicial system, which is hampered by delays in prosecution, a lack of independent investigations, deficient victim and witness protection procedures and political interference, as well as evidence tampering, destruction and concealment. Moreover, public records are largely inaccurate and changes to the Constitution have limited judicial control over the president and other executive officials. Corruption extends to the country’s prison system, which also faces severe overcrowding. It is also worth noting the country has reinstated the death penalty for those convicted of drug offences. In regard to law enforcement, high levels of corruption and bribery allow the police to act with impunity. Certain structural changes have also been made within the police to prevent them from investigating political and other crimes committed by the current prime minister while he was serving as president (2005 − 2015). In recent years, community policing and bicycle patrol initiatives have aimed to increase police visibility and accessibility, while mobile units provide vital services to remote areas. As for territorial integrity, Sri Lanka’s lack of infrastructure and effective border management render it susceptible to organized crime, particularly along maritime routes. Nevertheless, the navy has been proactive and successful in addressing maritime crimes.

    Economic and financial environment

    Despite its focus on post-war economic development and increasing rates of economic expansion, political and fiscal uncertainties have deterred investment in the country. Furthermore, the labour market in particular lacks efficiency, perpetuating imbalances between labour supply and demand across various sectors, while the judiciary is known to undermine property rights. Sri Lanka has anti-money laundering legislation in place, however, it lacks legislation to establish monitoring mechanisms over the finances of non-profit organizations, allowing for a possible money-laundering loophole. Nevertheless, efforts are being made to strengthen surveillance of suspicious transactions.

    Civil society and social protection

    Although Sri Lanka has established a national authority to protect crime victims and witnesses, the appointment to leadership positions of people allegedly involved in torture, has significantly harmed its legitimacy. Witness protection also seems to vary with each offence. In terms of drug abuse, Sri Lanka’s prison system provides rehabilitation programmes and civil society organizations also support rehabilitation measures, in addition to campaigning for better victim and witness support measures. Civil society has also been key in promoting peace and sustainable development. Despite this, the CSO sector in Sri Lanka reportedly lacks coordination. The Sri Lankan government has also put in place multiple national and regional strategies to prevent crime, but most are generic and are not directed at organized crime. In addition, the government introduced numerous community awareness programs for organized crime in the hope of influencing behavioural change and reducing participation among vulnerable populations. With regard to the country’s media environment, press freedom is extremely limited as evidenced by a surge in the police harassment of journalists. Discrimination and violence targeting ethnic minorities appear to be tolerated by the government and religious freedom is reportedly minimal.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.