Friday, March 20, 2009

Sri Lanka: France targets LTTE finance networks

By Jacques Follorou

Source: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Republished for information and discussion only. This report does not necessarily reflect the views of Mike Hitchen Consulting

The French Justice will be the first in Europe to look into the financing networks of the Tamil rebellion in Sri Lanka. Paris anti-terrorism Judge in charge of the case Philippe Coirre ended his investigations and should hand over the file to the Public Prosecutor at the end of March for summing-up.

Leading cadres of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in France and henchmen were imprisoned in 2007. Justice accuses about twenty people of having racketed the Tamil Diaspora through threats and abductions. These suspects acknowledge they belonged to the LTTE but most of them deny the accusations.

Fighting since 1972 against Colombo authorities, the Tigers, Hindus, claim the independence of the North and the Northeast of Sri Lanka, a country inhabited by 75% of Buddhist Singhalese. This guerrilla, the oldest one in Asia and the only one in the world equipped with a navy and aircrafts, financed itself mostly through the manna, forcibly taxed, of the Tamil communities settled abroad. The French one counts with more than 70,000 persons.

The synthesis of the Anti-terrorist Division police officers (SDAT) to Judge Coirre specifies that "each family had to pay ?2,000 per year and that this amount reached ?6,000 for shopkeepers". The suspects were linked with the Tamil Coordination Committee France or to the humanitarian organization Tamil Rehabilitation Organization(TRO), which denied any pressure. According to the investigation, these institutions were giving accounts to the Tamil management in Sri Lanka.

The cooperation between the Italian and French polices led to the arrest on 6th February in Paris, of Number Two of the Tamil mafia for Europe Tharmalingam Jeevakamth, alias "Kumar" or "Jeeva". Wanted in Italy for "money extortion and financing of terrorist activities", he is suspected to be one of the biggest financial superintendents of the Tamil rebels of the LTTE.

It appeared in French and Italian investigations that Switzerland was the hub of the Tamil illegal organization in Europe, which is said to count with over a hundred members. The Swiss Federation regularly hosted peace negotiations between the representatives of the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government. In 2008, the LTTE Number One in Europe, known as "Il Grande", wanted in Italia, besides ran away from Switzerland hastily.

According to the Italian and French justices, when people were refusing to pay, the LTTE was putting pressure on the families living in areas under their control in Sri Lanka. The organization has computerized data files to know the situation of households paying the "revolutionary tax". In theory, those who paid this amount would be the only ones to circulate freely on the roads controlled by the Tamil rebellion. On the field, a group of LTTE musclemen is taking care of recalcitrants and carries out retaliatory measures.

In front of Judge Coirre, the man in charge of money collection for the LTTE in the Val-de-Marne, Markandu Jeyapalasingam, pointed out that the fine families in Sri Lanka had to pay was "twelve times the amount claimed to their relatives in France" or even "to send one of the family members to a LTTE slave labour camp".

Again according to investigations led in Italy and France, the Tigers also count on an illegal group named Ellalann in charge of the execution of opponents. In Paris, a leaflet with death threats, signed by the French wing of the "Ellalann forces" was targeting the director of a community TV channel who was living in France. Heard by the policemen of the SDAT, he declared he had been subjected to pressures "for years" to relay the LTTE propaganda.

According to the French investigation, 30% of the funds are however donated by true LTTE supporters. The total amount collected in 2006 in France was assessed to ?7,5 million. In Italy, the network of the Tigers, dismantled in June 2008, would have collected between 3 and 4 million euros in 2007. British anti-terrorist police services also work on the local wing of the LTTE that would have set up a secret financial system operating through pro-LTTE websites.

The cash collected in Europe was then send to Switzerland in suitcases, to be deposited on bank accounts used to finance the war against the Sri Lankan Army. A laundering network was passing through jewels and gold merchants in Singapore.

To justify the qualification of "terrorism", the French investigation tried hard to demonstrate the link between the secret financing and the attacks perpetrated by the LTTE. Telephone conversations would have been intercepted in this regard between cadres of the LTTE in France and activists in Sri Lanka.

Among the facts retained are the four suicide attacks against buses, between June 2006 and April 2007, killing 101 in Sri Lanka. The French police officers added to the file their reports on LTTE cadres shadowing at the Armament Trade Fair in Le Bourget (Seine-Saint-Denis), while they were looking for transmission equipment.

Confronted to the dismantling of their organization in Europe, the officials of the LTTE sent members of their intelligence service - the Tiger Organization Security Intelligence Service - to France and Italy to try and compensate. But as an echo of the current military collapse of the Tigres in Sri Lanka, the failure of financing networks in Europe illustrates the most serious setback the rebellion experienced in thirty years.

Recognized as legitimate for so many years, the fight of the Tigers alienated the indulgence of the International Community little by little. India describes them as terrorists since the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a LTTE suicide bomber, on 21st May 1991, and the European Union included them on an identical list on 29th May 2006.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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