Thursday, March 19, 2009

French judicial investigation into financing network of Tamil Tigers

By Jacques Follorou

The French Judiciary 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.

Fighing since 1972 against Colombo authorities, the Tigers, mainly 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, 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.

>> Full Story: Le Monde:French

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