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LTTE and drugs smuggling
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Author:  Peter [ Wed Nov 08, 2006 9:40 pm ]
Post subject:  LTTE and drugs smuggling

LTTE and drugs smuggling

by Lakshman Hulugalle
Director General, Media Centre for National Security
@ The Island / 08Nov2006


The LTTE’s involvement in drug trafficking began from the inception of the organisation. Even as early as 1984 LTTE linked arrests involving heroin have been recorded in Italy, France, UK etc. Italy was one of the earliest countries to take action against LTTE drug traffickers. Sri Lankan Tamils linked to drugs trafficking arrested in the west since from 1984 to 1990 was 1642. Over 200 Tamils were arrested from Italian cities such as Rome, Naples, Acilia, Syracuse and Sicily.

Heroin traffickers and the heroin trade is not advertised in the media like other products. This is not surprising. The heroin industry and trade from the primary stages of growing "poppy" in the best known poppy growing areas of the "Golden Triangle" in the jungles of Myanmar and the "Golden Crescent" of Afghanistan, Central Asia and other countries through the various stages of purification to the end product. From the beginning of the "poppy" to the end the entire process is illegal. In some countries the possession of the most minute quantity of heroin will mean the death penalty with no appeal or mercy from any anti-death penalty or human rights organisation. Understandably this penalty is because of the dangerous hazards of using heroin which results in the destabilisation of individuals and society involving entire nations. The very nature of the trade, especially huge financial benefits derived from small quantities which can even be concealed in the human body results in violence with dangerous implications. Most dangerous is the linkage of heroin to terrorists and terrorism and the innumerable forms of crime. From large scale criminal syndicates, world wide networks of distribution techniques and down to the street vendor of heroin, huge sums of illegal money are involved, finally ending with money laundering.

The link between terrorism and drug trafficking is inseparable and is the reason why drug trafficking is dangerous. First, both terrorists and drug organisations are extremely secretive as their existence and "success" depend on it. The statement that there is "no entrance fee to join the organization but the only exit is through the cemetery" explains the nature of both organisations. Secondly, they are closely knit, tyrannical and autocratic. The "Capo" is supreme and his word is law. This makes infiltration into these organisations very difficult, almost impossible unless well trained and intelligent. These organisations such as the LTTE, IRA, the Columbian drug "cartels", the Mafia are "empires". But even these have been infiltrated. Ethnic or racial outfits such as the LTTE, religious terrorist groups as the IRA, Al-Qaeda and the Sicilian "Mafiosi" or "family" are most difficult to infiltrate. Their anti-social activities, business and trade requirements make violence mandatory with its own code of conduct based on revenge, reprisals, cruelty, torture and death decided arbitrarily.

Violence involves weapons and these are obtained sometimes legally but used for illegal purposes. Thirdly, these organisations have international links made possible by a sympathetic "Disapora". The Mafia is "Italian"’ in language, culture and religion (Roman Catholic) and has a concentrated "Diaspora" in the USA. The Columbian "Cartels" are Spanish in culture, language and religion (Roman Catholic) and are concentrated mainly in Southern USA and California. The LTTE is Tamil in culture, language, race and religion (Hindu) with its "Diaspora" in the USA, Canada, UK, Norway, Western Europe, Australia. Referring to the heroin involvement of the entire Tamil heroin syndicate in Italy an Italian police official states: "...it is exceedingly difficult for the police to penetrate the fluctuating, homogenous culture with its different language and customs". The LTTE has another critical advantage over the other organisations of having over 60 million Tamil Hindus with the same culture, language and religion separated by just 22 miles of sea known as the Palk Strait. This distance can be covered in an hour in a Fibre Glass Dinghy powered by two 75 horse power outboard engines into the mangrove swamps and rivulets running inland providing more than sufficient cover and access for any illegal activities used to its maximum by the LTTE.

During investigations in Rome of Tamil LTTE supporters, the "Police in Rome trailing as Italian drug addicts were led to a deserted farmhouse. Inside were six Tamils with 200 grams of heroin which laboratory tests indicated that the heroin came from the Pakistan-Afghan border. One of those arrested had admitted that the heroin had entered Italy from India on a flight routed through Warsaw." This shows the ramifications of the LTTE heroin trade which by now would have developed into larger and more better organised outfits.

It can be stated that the LTTE, IRA, FARC, Al Qaeda, Sendoro Luminosa are typical of the terrorist organisations involved in the heroin trade. The LTTE’s involvement in drug trafficking began from the inception of the organisation. Even as early as 1984 LTTE linked arrests involving heroin have been recorded in Italy, France, UK etc.

This is not the best of times for the LTTE just now as it is listed as a terrorist organisation in India, USA, UK, Canada, Malaysia and the EU countries numbering 25. LTTE involvement in drug smuggling has got little media attention and many countries seem to have turned a blind eye to this most destabilising, criminal and anti-social of inhuman activities. On 22nd August 2006 events in Canada showed the involment of the LTTE hierarchy in the conspiracy with their members in USA and Canada. It is significant that this could well be the first instance when 14 LTTE supporters and sympathizersbe much more soonbeen named for illegal activities especially in light of the LTTE being listed as a foreign terrorist organisation in the USA and Canada besides the EU’s 25 countries, India and Malaysia. Reports indicate that the LTTE organisers in Canada and the US have "heavily" lobbied both the judiciary and Congress to annul this ban. This demonstrates that although the LTTE outfit and lobbyists have made every possible effort to give the impression to the international community and especially the Tamil diaspora that all is well they do realise the gravity and the repercussion of the ban. The procurement of sophisticated illegal weapons "sufficient to equip a moving guerilla force" was torpedoed with the arrests of the Tamil "ring" of procurers. Had the deal gone through it would have had serious implications.

The LTTE is a multi-facetted organisation including armed conflict and has been funded for over 25 years by individuals, donations, foreign governments, and extortion mainly from the Tamil diaspora and Tamils in Sri Lanka, trafficking of refugees, forging currency, credit card racketeering, forging illegal passports, human smuggling, smuggling of narcotics and weapons and innumerable business ventures including shipping and training foreign terrorist organisations. The LTTE is in fact a financial "empire" with a budget and expenses unaccountable except to the LTTE "supremo" and his close "associates". The latest arms deal to procure Russian made SA-18 missiles to be used against Sri Lankan Air Force jets was reported to be a staggering US$ 900,000 to US$ 937,000. Reliable sources report US $ 2 million is the total finding for "refugees" of which US $ 730,000 is collected from the Canadian Tamils. The LTTE boasts of having 4000- 5000 regular "fighters" in the field. Tamil youth numbering another 2000-4000 including their families according to a good guess have to be supported. There are over 20,000 killed in battle and about the same number injured, with over half seriously injured and unable to earn a living. They too need support. The families of the dead have to be maintained and the wounded in battle have to be provided with medical care.

With the cost of ammunition, weapons, and maintenance of Sea Tigers and their craft, the LTTE need money, and plenty of it. The families of the LTTE hierarchy are also in the west. Indiscriminate taxes collected in rupees from every conceivable source such as trucks and vehicles in the transport services at checkpoints in the northern and eastern provinces, extortion etc. amounts to another’ rupees 2 million a day. These financial sources cannot in any way meet the expensive business of running an outfit of that strength geared with sophisticated weapons. Drug trafficking is thus a major LTTE "funder" made easier with a Tamil diaspora similar to the Spanish speaking population of USA living in the Southern states. There were reports of LTTE connections with the major South American drug cartels but there is no commitment yet in rooting out this evil. Drug trafficking is common amongst all terrorist groups for the obvious reason that the LTTE has a world wide reach for collection and distribution of drugs, mainly heroin.

The LTTE drug business is a many faceted trade and is a well organised outfit. LTTE supporters provide the "mules", peddlers, traffickers, bulk distributors to the "street" and secrecy. Secrecy is critical for the drug trade and the LTTE will hunt anyone suspected of divulging information. They also fund sources at the point of controlling its heroin trade. Originally, the drug business began as a small enterprise limited to the Tamil Nadu state but has today extended its tentacles and links with the underworld of the trade. The earlier drug routes still exists from the North via Afghanistan, Pakistan down to Tamil Nadu, with over 60 million sympathetic, culturally and linguistically linked Tamil Hindus. In the ideally smuggling-friendly Vedaraniyam coast of Tamil Nadu, local agents make use of the Tamil Nadu fishermen to transport drugs including high and low quality heroin. The risk is minimal as a friendly individual in the police, customs guarantees success. The home of the LTTE leader as well as its "core" group are "natives" from the historically notorious smuggling port of Velvettithurai, better known as VVT in the northern peninsula. The LTTE has cultivated individuals of all levels in the business, politicians, law enforcement officials, agencies, lawyers, transporters etc. for the successful smuggling of not only drugs but also weapons, injured cadres, medicine, expertise and all that is required to wage armed combat against the democratic state of Sri Lanka. The LTTE according to reports also has links with the Asian drug business. The LTTE reportedly has links to the Golden Triangle and the Golden crescent via the state of Tamil Nadu down to Sri Lanka and again distributed.

The LTTE has now been listed as a terrorist organisation by the USA, UK, India, EU, Canada and Malaysia. The Republic of China has not listed the LTTE but there is no chance of the LTTE even trying to spread its tentacles of terrorism in China. Many Tamils with LTTE links have been arrested since mid-1984. Italy was one of the earliest countries to take action against LTTE drug traffickers. "The nexus between international arms, and narcotics trafficking is well established," according to Davis. Sri Lankan Tamils linked to drugs trafficking arrested in the west since from 1984 to 1990 was 1642. Over 200 Tamils were arrested from Italian cities such as Rome, Naples, Acilia, Syracuse and Sicily. The LTTE has also links with Asia, Thailand etc. The Bangkok Post in October stated that the LTTE is directly involved with the Burmese regime in making and distributing heroin. The investigation uncovered direct proof of close collaboration between Burma and the Tamil Tigers. In 1997 the Indian Express of 10th February 1997 in an article titled "The Drug Lagoon" stated that the Sri Lankan Police seized 375kg of heroin smuggled from South India to a locality off Negombo, for eventual shipment to Europe. The smugglers were suspected to have links with the LTTE.

The LTTE depends much on drug smuggling and distribution. Almost all terrorist groups without exception have links with the lucrative trade of drug trafficking. It is easy to carry out and distribute as the Tamils have a widespread diaspora internationally. Especially after the unfortunate 1983 disturbances and riots there was widespread sympathy for the Tamils internationally which they used to develop the trade. Reports show that these smugglers when apprehended by customs and the police always mentioned that the finances were required for their "freedom" struggle. However today the tide has turned against them and the LTTE is listed as a terrorist organisation by many countries as in India, USA, UK, Canada, Malaysia and the EU. Like any terrorist organisation, the LTTE is no exception in that it requires finances for its activities. Although they generate finances from taxes, sympathetic supporters and other pursuits, heroin remains one of the most lucrative avenues for generating finances with their involvement in the heroin trade.

A few arrests of Sri Lankan Tamils with LTTE links are given below:

* Uthayakumar, Amil Athmajothy, and Ramachandran Iyah of Rue Vinaig-eiers, Paris: French drug authorities say gang allegedly finances arms transactions for Tamil terrorist activities. 1984.

* Moses Rajendra, Kumara Rajaratnam (Malaysian) and Ravindra Kumar Perumal: 1gm heroin, 16,000,000 pesetas and magazines, bulletins, stickers and posters found inside flat they occupied in Madrid. 1985.

* Mano Krishna (female) of Madras, Arumai Sinnathamby, Selladorai Felix Anton: Seizure of 3kg of heroin. Pakistan drug authority stated they are smuggling heroin to finance the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka. 1985.

* Ponnadurai Sivayogarajah (British passport), Kumaraswamy Pathmanathan (British passport): Brussels police stated involvement with a militant Tamil organisation in Bombay dealing with trafficking illicit drugs, arms. They possessed 1.975 kg of heroin. 1985.

* 95 suspects belonging to a Tamil militant group: This Tamil group was composed and directed by a Tamil militant group, all belonging to a Tamil ethnic group. The proceeds from narcotics served to finance some revolutionary movements in India, Sri Lanka and Europe. Traces of some kind of link between leaders of this group and guerilla leaders in Asia, especially of training camps in Palestine and Lebanon have been found.

* Mampullai Iyappan Kochu Ramakrishnan of Montreal: 1310 gm of heroin concealed in the false bottom of suitcase. According to his statement one Bala raised funds for a Tamil separatist movement and the suitcase allegedly contained important documents of the separatist movement. 1986.

* Parameswary Tambiayah (female) of Madras.

* Sritharan Subramanium, Thanapalan Paramanathan and Siyama Rhanapalaam of Montreal: Seizure of 950gm of herion. The French Drugs Authority stated these traffickers are said to have belonged to the Tamil Tiger group which is believed to collect funds in this way. 1986.

* Sinnadurai Selvanayagam, Ponniah Baskaran, Muthusamy Jeevandra: Seizure of 49 gm of heroin. Police stated Somasuntheram is a leader of an organisation set up in Italy. Drug trafficking is the main source of funds for this Tamil militant organisation. 1987.

* Kandasamy Indran, Jaffna: Possession of 351 gm of heroin. The subject told police that the profits from drug traffickers were intended for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. 1988.

* Maheswaran Kirubendra Moorthy, Eswaraailam, Atchuveli, Sembumali Ravindrajah, Irupala, East Kopay: Possession of 507 gm of herion. Arrested at Mattakuliya, Modera. Maheswaran is a member of a Tamil drug syndicate. When he was arrested he was in possession of a card which carried the insignia of the LTTE militants displaying their sophisticate weapons. 1990.

* Muthuvel Sripathy, Ponnathurai Srikaran: Seizure of 3kg and 500gm of heroin. They were reported to have admitted that they were supporters of the Tamil Tiger terrorist group. 1991.

* S. Ganeshalngam, Koraiyur, Jaffna: Possession of 1.150kg of heroin. Was arrested by Tamil Nadu police at Trichy in March 1993. His name figures in the interrogation report of Karan alias Kanna, an LTTE cadre arrested on 20/2/93. He said he paid amounts of Rs. 5000 thrice to the LTTE cadres/sympathisers till 1991 April at Trichy. 1993.

* Mohamed Samsudeen Passagerie, Joseph David, David Michael, Reginold Asservatham, Vesgaratnam Nadarajah Kurrukkal, Kanageswary Vallipuram, Sivaramalingam Chandrakumaran: Seizure of 6kgs of heroin. French Drug Authority stated that all monies were used to finance the movement of the Tigers who migrated to India. 1986.

* Sinnadorai Selvanayagam, Ponniah Baskaran, Somasunderam Sritmaran, Muthusamy Jeevandra. 1987.

* Kandasamy Indran, Jaffna. 1988.

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