I have thought to write less of Sri Lanka following my recent trip there – and eight articles about what I learned on that trip published through the Huffington Post.
Sri Lankan soldier rescuing Tamil child.
I chronicled the defeat of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government’s Herculean efforts to care for more than 300,000 Sri Lankans displaced by the three decade-long conflict.
That was before I learned four Sri Lankans pleaded guilty in U.S. Federal Court – in Brooklyn – recently – for conspiring to provide support to the now-defeated Tamil Tigers.
What did these terrorists in our backyard actually do? Let us count the ways they broke our laws. They are accused of:
Attempting to bribe an agent posing as a State Department official to remove the Tigers from the government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Launder Tiger money through a Swiss bank to cover a trip to Sri Lanka by U.S. Congressman. The Chicago Tribune has identified him as Danny K. Davis, a Democrat of Illinois.
Laundered money through a charitable front organization called the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization.
Buying weapons for the Tigers, including anti-aircraft guns, automatic rifles and grenade launchers, along with ammunition and explosives.
Maintaining a spreadsheet ‘want list’ of $20 million worth of arms as “priority” purchase items.
The Tamil Tigers were known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They are considered one of the world’s foremost terrorist organizations.
One of their members is wanted in connection with the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Velupillai Prabhakaran in Death.
The U.S. government said in a statement that the LTTE, had relied on “sympathetic Tamil expatriates” to raise and launder money for the group.
These Tigers-in-Brooklyn face sentences of up to 20 years each.
The details read better than a Hollywood screenplay. In documents provided by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York — Brooklyn! — the Grand Jury charges “Conspiracy To Provide Material Support To a Foreign Terrorist Organization:”
- …the defendants… knowingly and intentionally conspire(d) to provide material support and resources… including property, tangible and intangible, and services, including currency and monetary instruments and financial securities, financial services, training, expert advice and assistance, false documentation and identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons and personnel, to a foreign terrorist organization, to wit: the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which has been designated by the Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organization…
- …the defendants… together with others, did knowingly and willfully conspire to corruptly give, offer and promise, directly and indirectly, things of value, to wit: quantities of United States currency, to public officials, to wit: federal agents purporting to be officers of the United States Department of State… with intent to influence official acts, to wit: the designation of… the “LTTE” as a foreign terrorist organization…
- In furtherance of the conspiracy and to effect its objectives, within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, the defendants… together with others, committed and caused to be committed, among others, the following OVERT ACTS:
a. …met with a prospective financial contributor to discuss the financing of a bribery scheme to remove the LTTE from the foreign terrorist organization list…
b. …met with one of the State Department officials to discuss the terms and conditions of the bribery scheme.
c. …wrote a $500 check to be given to one of the State Department officials.
d. …gave one of the State Department officials $5,000 in United States currency.
e. …the defendants… met with one of the State Department officials to discuss the terms and conditions of the bribery scheme.
f. …traveled to LTTE-controlled territory in Sri Lanka to meet with LTTE officials about the bribery scheme…
g. …met with both of the State Department officials to discuss the terms and conditions of the bribery scheme.
h. …communicated the proposed terms and conditions of the bribery scheme to LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka.
The U.S. Department of Justice summarized their proceedings in a press-release stating the defendants were “caught in an FBI Undercover sting operation attempting to purchase surface-to-air missiles, missile launchers, and hundreds of AK-47 automatic rifles.
According to the government, “The defendants were acting at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, including Pottu Amman, the LTTE’s chief of intelligence and procurement and the right-hand man to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan. The weapons were to be used by the LTTE to shoot down Kfir aircraft used by the Sri Lankan military.
In spite of the love affair the LTTE has had with the European and Canadian press, our own government is unequivocal in their assessment of the Tamil Tigers:
The LTTE was founded in 1976 and uses illegal methods to raise money, acquire weapons and technology, and publicize its cause of establishing an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka.
The LTTE began its armed conflict against the Sri Lankan government in1983, and utilizes a guerrilla strategy that often includes acts of terrorism.
With an army of several thousand combatants, the LTTE has, until recently, controlled most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka.
Over the past 17 years, the LTTE has conducted approximately 200 suicide bombings, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of victims, and carried out numerous political assassinations, including the May 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the 1993 assassination of the President of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa, the July 1999 assassination of Neelan Thiruchelvam, a member of the Sri Lankan parliament, the June 2000 assassination of C.V. Goonaratne, the Sri Lankan Industry Minister, the August 2006 assassination of the Sri Lankan government’s peace secretariat, Ketheshwaran Loganathan, the January 2008 assassination of Sri Lankan Minister for Nation Building, D.M. Dassanayake, and the April 2008 assassination of Sri Lankan Highways Minister, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.
In 1997, the LTTE was designated by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and therefore may not legally raise money or procure equipment or materials in the United States.
“For nearly two decades the LTTE has waged its war of terror at home and abroad, making suicide bombings its trademark,” stated U.S. Attorney Campbell. “With these convictions we have sent a clear message that the LTTE and its supporters cannot use the United States as a source of supply for deadly weapons and technology, and that all terrorists who attempt to do so will be met with the full resources of law enforcement.”
Mr. Campbell added that this successful prosecution is the result of a coordinated international effort by law enforcement led by the Newark Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Assistance was provided by more than 20 of the FBI’s Field Offices, including New York City, New Haven, Buffalo, Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago, and San Jose; the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the U.S. Department of State; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Security Program; and British law enforcement authorities.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Greg D. Andres, Marshall L. Miller, Andrew E. Goldsmith, and Jeffrey H. Knox
The defendants include Sathajhan Sarachandran, also known as “Satha” (29), Sahilal Sabaratnam, also known as “Sahil” (29), Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam, also known as “Thani” (40), and Nadarasa Yogarasa, also known as “Yoga” (54).
Sentencing is to be announced. Stay tuned.