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Tiger operatives indicted in US Court under Material Support Law



The Federal Court in Brooklyn

Piratheepan Nadarajah (36) and Suresh Sriskandarajah (32), two alleged operatives of Sri Lanka's now defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a US-designated foreign terrorist organisation, referred to as the Tamil Tigers, were arraigned last Thursday before the United States Magistrate at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York following their extradition from Canada.

The two men, who were born in Sri Lanka and became naturalised Canadian citizens, had been sought by the United States since 2006. Each has been charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Tamil Tigers, a law that was upheld by the US Supreme Court last year when LTTE operatives in the US challenged it, after their separatist military movement was defeated three years ago after more than 25 years of insurgency.

The men’s fight against extradition ended this month after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed their appeals, clearing the way for them to be sent to the United States.

The two Tamil-Canadians pleaded not guilty to criminal charges before a Brooklyn judge on Thursday, years after US prosecutors first accused them of ties to the Sri Lankan terrorist organisation, the Tamil Tigers.

A decade ago, the Tamil Tigers were on their way to carving out a separate state within Sri Lanka. But the guerrillas’ continued use of suicide bombings, child soldiers and political assassinations led the Canadian, US and European governments to blacklist the movement as terrorists – and take steps to cut them off from their supporters in the global Tamil refugee Diaspora.

The 26-year-old conflict ended in 2009 when the Sri Lankan Government Army vanquished the Tigers.

In 1997, the LTTE was designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation and therefore may not legally raise money or procure equipment or materials in the United States.

In 2006, US prosecutors first alleged that Sriskandarajah and Nadarajah were Canadian cogs in the Tigers’ global procurement machine.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Nadarajah and several co-conspirators had engaged in negotiations in 2006 with an undercover FBI agent to buy 20 SA-18 heat-seeking missiles, 10 missile launchers and 500 AK-47 assault rifles.

The other defendant, Suresh Sriskandarajah, assisted Tamil officials in researching and acquiring aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software and communications equipment, a criminal complaint charged.

Part of cycle

Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, said the defendants “were part of the cycle of sophisticated arms and large sums of money that fuelled” the Tamil Tigers, an organisation that authorities said had used suicide bombings and political assassinations. Nadarajah and Sriskandarajah were both wearing khaki jumpsuits and were cuffed at the ankles when they entered not-guilty pleas before Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom. A bail hearing was set for January 9.

Nadarajah is charged with conspiring and attempting to acquire $1 million worth of anti-aircraft missiles, missile launchers and other military equipment, and conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE. Sriskandarajah is charged with conspiring to provide material support to the LTTE and dealing in the property of a especially designated terrorist group. At the request of the United States, Nadarajah and Sriskandarajah were previously arrested in Canada with a view to extradition, pursuant to warrants requested in the Eastern District of New York.


An LTTE bombing in Colombo

As detailed in the superseding indictment and other court filings, between July 1, 2006 and August 19, 2006, Nadarajah and several co-conspirators engaged in negotiations with an undercover FBI agent to purchase and export $1 million worth of high-powered weapons and military equipment for the LTTE, including 20 SA-18 heat-seeking, surface-to-air, anti-aircraft missiles; 10 missile launchers; and 500 AK-47s.

Nadarajah and his associates attempted to acquire these weapons at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, including Pottu Amman, then the LTTE’s chief of intelligence and procurement and the top deputy to then-LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The anti-aircraft weapons were to be used by the LTTE to shoot down Kfir aircraft used by the Sri Lankan military.

As detailed in the superseding indictment and other court filings, between September 2004 and April 2006, Sriskandarajah and several co-conspirators assisted a principal LTTE procurement officer to research and acquire aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software and communications equipment.

Sriskandarajah used students as couriers to smuggle prohibited items into territory in Sri Lanka then controlled by the LTTE. Additionally, Sriskandarajah helped the LTTE launder its proceeds in the United States and elsewhere.

Weapons and equipment

“As alleged, these two defendants were part of the cycle of sophisticated arms and large sums of money that fuelled their terrorist organisation. As Tamil Tiger operatives, the defendants were bent on procuring high-powered weaponry and high-tech equipment and designs for the LTTE, an organisation that has waged a long-standing war of terror using suicide bombings that often targeted innocent civilians.

They would stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even using students to smuggle prohibited items into Sri Lanka,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “Thanks to the combined efforts of our law enforcement partners in the United States and abroad, there is no safe haven for supporters of terrorist groups like the LTTE.”

“The defendants allegedly set out to provide material support for high-level members of the LTTE, a known terrorist organisation responsible for civilian massacres and other heinous crimes, by attempting to use our country and its resources as a gateway for criminal behaviour.

But after more than six years of fighting their extradition to the United States, they will finally face the justice they couldn't evade.

This serves as a fine example of how our law enforcement partners both here and around the world are successfully combining their efforts against terrorists and terrorist groups alike,” stated Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos.

“The subjects in this case attempted to exploit perceived vulnerabilities in the United States to provide material support to a violent terrorist organisation. Although their immediate goal was not to do harm to the United States, political motivations can and do quickly change, and it’s important that law enforcement be steadfast in its pursuit of terrorism regardless of ideology,” stated Special Agent in Charge Ward.

Incidents involving LTTE outside Sri Lanka 2012


LTTE child soldiers

November 23: A local court in Chennai, Tamil Nadu closed a criminal charge filed against slain LTTE chief Prabhakaran, pending before it for many years. The VII Additional Sessions Judge (In charge) Kaliamoorthy declared the charge as “abated,” following the Crime Branch-CID request to close it on the ground that Prabhakaran's body was recovered from the Nandikadal area of Sri Lanka in 2009.

November 13: Two Sri Lankan men were charged with the murder of Parithy, a former ‘commander’ of the LTTE in Paris. The two suspects, both born in Sri Lanka in 1979, were arrested on November 11 and are being held in custody in Paris. One of them is suspected of ordering the murder and the other of carrying out the hit on the Sri Lankan-born French national. They have been charged with murder and immigration offences.

November 8: A prominent LTTE leader and leader of the Pro-LTTE TCC Nadarajah Matheenthiran alias Parithy was killed in Paris, France, as a result of internal rift. Police said that Parithy belonged to the LTTE's Nediyawan faction. Since the death of Prabhakaran, an internal rift occurred between LTTE Europe Leader Nediyawan and V. Rudrakumaran who was also a prominent LTTE leader based in the USA.

October 28: An Australian report said that former LTTE combatants wanted for their crimes in Sri Lanka are being funded to migrate to Australia as asylum seekers by former members of the terrorist group who have already migrated to Australia. The report said that six former combatants who posed as asylum seekers were arrested leaving Sri Lanka this year, with another six people who were apprehended as alleged smugglers.

June 17: The Belgium Government said that it would continue to remain vigilant against any activities by the LTTE on its soil.

June 11: Swiss prosecutors have planned to interview the head of finance of the LTTE who is imprisoned in the Netherlands. They have also planned to question some 25 senior ranked LTTE members; some of whom are currently imprisoned in Sri Lanka. They are investigating into suspected money laundering by 12 members of the Swiss LTTE to the Netherlands and Sri Lanka. The prosecutor office suspects that the Tamils used fake pay slips of Sri Lankans resident in Switzerland to obtain loans of $73,000 - $104,000.

June 6: Swiss Director of Prosecutions revealed that the LTTE had taken fraudulently substantial funds as loans from financial institutions on the basis of false documents, reports Lanka Web. It was also revealed that these funds were channelled to the LTTE for purchase of arms through S. Ramachandran, a leader in the LTTE overseas front.

June 4: British Sri Lankans in London held a peaceful demonstration against violent methods adopted by the LTTE rump in UK.

May 11: A United States Federal Judge in New York sentenced a top Tamil Tiger, who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, to time served in jail and freed the man. The defendant, Karunakaran Kandasamy (55), had pleaded guilty to, among others, a charge of conspiring to provide material support to the LTTE.

April 30: The United States Department of Justice seeks a 15-year prison sentence for a Canadian Tamil man who pleaded guilty in a United States district court to charges of conspiring to provide material support to the LTTE, a proscribed organisation in the US. Mylvaganam, a Canadian citizen who previously lived in the US, was arrested by Canada's RCMP officers in Toronto and extradited to the US in 2009, following his indictment in the Eastern District Court of New York. He pleaded guilty on February 8, 2012 to conspiring to procure sophisticated technology, including submarine design software and night vision equipment for the LTTE in 2006. Mylvaganam faces a maximum term of 15 years’ imprisonment.

March 10: Sri Lanka's ambassador to Germany, Sarath Kongahage, said that the LTTE and its sympathisers are fast fading in Germany. Several attempts made by them to raise funds by holding campaigns have failed. The Sri Lankan community in Germany is around 60,000.

March 9: Media spokesperson for Sri Lankan Australians in Melbourne, Nagesha Wickramasuriya said that separatist activists and LTTE supporters are attempting to lobby support from federal Parliamentarians in Australia into making a statement and to pressurise the UNHRC to take action against Sri Lanka.

March 8: Activists of various pro-LTTE movements disrupted an international conference and forced the organisers to send away a Sri Lankan academic. The members of Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam May 17 Movement, Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Federation, as well as MDMK cadre barged into the conference venue at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU) in Tamil Nadu and protested against the participation of Jeeva Niriella, faculty of law, lecturer, University of Colombo. This is the second such incident of a Sri Lankan visitor facing a protest by pro-Tamil outfits. In January this year, Thirukumaran Nadesan, husband of Nirupama Rajapaksa, suffered an even harsher treatment when slippers were hurled at him in Rameswaram where he visited to offer prayers in the temple.

January 16: A suspected sympathiser of the LTTE was arrested by Kochi city Police from Chengalpettu in Chennai in connection with a human trafficking case involving Sri Lankan Tamils.

January 15: The US granted President Mahinda Rajapaksa immunity from a law suit filed in a US court against him by the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora. The US filed a “Suggestion of Immunity” at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on January 13 for President Rajapaksa, recognising him as the “sitting head of state of a foreign state.”

The External Affairs Ministry has directed the country's missions in Europe to keep a close watch on the activities of LTTE front organisations in their respective countries.

January 3: The French Ambassador confirmed the publication of 360 stamps by La Poste. However, after the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed La Poste that the LTTE is a terrorist group banned by the EU in 2006, the mail service has assured that no such stamps will be printed further. Peiris urged the French Government to ensure that publications like the four stamps issued by La Poste of France, depicting images related to the LTTE, including its insignia, should not happen and their publication be cancelled.

2011

October 21: A Dutch court convicted and sentenced five Dutch citizens of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, accused of extorting money from other Dutch Tamils to fund terrorist activities.

September 30: Sri Lankan-born American hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam, who was found guilty on all counts in the high-profile insider trading trial and awaiting sentencing in the United States, also financed the LTTE, in its decades-long terrorism.

September 28: Dutch prosecutors trying five Sri Lankan Tamil nationals (who are all naturalised Dutch citizens now), accused of extorting money from other Dutch Tamils in the Netherlands, are seeking long prison terms. The prosecutors have demanded sentences ranging from 10 to 16 years for the five ethnic Tamils accused of organising illegal lotteries and extorting cash from Tamils in the Netherlands with all proceeds going to the LTTE, to finance its terrorism.

Nine persons who were arrested in Kerala in India on September 26 on the charge of cheating 34 Sri Lankans at refugee camps in Tamil Nadu are suspected by the Police to have links with the LTTE.

September 27: A senior American counter-terrorism official warned Canadian authorities that two Sri Lankan migrants who arrived off the British Columbia Coast in 2009 aboard a smuggling ship were suspected cadre of the militant outfit LTTE.

September 17: A domestic Dutch criminal court, trying five Sri Lankan Tamils for supporting Sri Lanka's defeated Tamil Tiger terrorist outfit, will screen Britain's Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka's Killing Fields’ on a request made by the defence counsel.

August 27: Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the European Union (EU) Ravinatha Aryasinha said that the EU was yet to respond to a request from Sri Lanka on listing LTTE front organisations in Europe as terrorist entities.

August 23: Prof Rohan Gunaratne, a specialist in terrorism research, while addressing the fifth annual symposium of the Sir John Kotalawela Defence University, said that despite the LTTE being wiped out in Sri Lanka, their international presence still posed a threat to the country.

August 18: The overseas cadre of LTTE continued to procure weapons while the LTTE Diaspora continued to support the organisation financially, a report released by the (US) Department of State said. It said that despite its military defeat in Sri Lanka at the hands of Government Forces in May 2009, the LTTE's international network of financial support persists.

August 1: The Sri Lankan Government updated a request to the EU to list front organisations of the LTTE as terrorist entities.

July 27: Radio Netherlands claimed that Rehabilitated (LTTE) cadre are ready to fight again if life doesn't improve.

July 21: Minister of Human Resources D.E.W. Gunasekera said that international groups looked at the situation in the country from the viewpoint of the LTTE.

June 16: In the wake of a documentary aired by Britain's Channel 4, the United Nations renewed its call for Sri Lanka to investigate the alleged violations of human rights during the last phase of the three-decade long conflict with the LTTE militants.

June 15: Following the broadcasting of a documentary by the Channel 4 television, the United Kingdom pressed Sri Lanka to investigate the alleged war crimes or face an international inquiry.

A team of Dutch officials investigating the financial network of the LTTE leaders in the Netherlands arrived in Sri Lanka to interrogate former and current LTTE leaders in the country.

May 25: Dutch authorities investigating the financial network of the LTTE leaders in the Netherlands plan to interrogate former and current LTTE leaders in Sri Lanka and are in the process of seeking permission from the Sri Lankan authorities.

May 21: A Norway-based leader of the LTTE, Perinpanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyawan, was arrested by the Netherlands Police and produced in a court in Oslo in Norway.

April 7: Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) asked the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to deport a Sri Lankan Tamil migrant for his role in the human smuggling operation that brought hundreds of Tamil refugees to Canada aboard the Thai cargo ship MV Sun Sea in August 2010.

March 17: Canadian authorities ordered the deportation of a Sri Lankan Tamil migrant who had entered Vancouver in August 2010 aboard the Thai ship MV Sun Sea on the charge of being a member of the militant outfit LTTE.

February 25: The Canadian Government is mulling over the confiscation of all LTTE banking and fund-raising activities in Canada. Minister for External Affairs G.L. Peiris said that Canada was already in the process of crafting the necessary legislation. The Minister said that Jason Kenny, a Canadian Minister had taken the lead in this respect.

February 13: Central intelligence agencies communicated specific inputs to the Tamil Nadu Police that suspected LTTE cadre are conspiring to carry out attacks on VVIPs during forthcoming Assembly elections in the State.

Courtesy: Asian Tribune

 

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