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 Post subject: LTTE Canadian Connection - Part II
 Post Posted: Mon Dec 25, 2006 6:40 pm 
LTTE Canadian Connection
LTTE Front Organizations and Networking in Canada

Source: Other people's wars: A Review of Overseas Terrorism in Canada (30 June 2003) - A comprehensive study by by John C. Thompson, Joe Turlej


Narcotics and Terrorism

If the PKK isn’t flogging drugs in Canada, the same cannot be said for some erstwhile members of the Tamil Tigers. They have a history with narcotics that goes back to the late 1970s when Tamil smugglers (a group from which the LTTE leader and some of his key lieutenants originally emerged) started carrying heroin into Sri Lanka from India.
With the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Fundamentalist revolution in Iran, the traditional smuggling routes used by many Afghan/Pakistani opium and heroin producers became severely disrupted, and the Sri Lankan Tamils soon provided a new way of getting their drugs to markets elsewhere in the world. Additionally, the insurgent trick of running drugs into the society they are fighting against also appeared — and Sri Lanka (despite fierce penalties — including execution — for drug trafficking) found that the number of heroin addicts on the Island was growing rapidly. Between 1983 and 1993, the number of addicts there grew to 50,000.

Tamils also began running heroin into Western Europe by 1984. Some significant incidents include the arrest of 204 Tamils in Italy during an investigation into a heroin smuggling ring — and some of the prisoners claimed special treatment as they were "political prisoners and revolutionary fighters", while several other prisoners had their tongues cut out to prevent them from talking to authorities. In 1984, Swiss police had found that Tamil refugees carried some 20 percent of the heroin brought into their country. By 1988, Italian police had broken up four rings of Tamil heroin smugglers. Another route for Tamil-related heroin smuggling was found in Poland in 1984, where authorities in the then Warsaw Pact nation (unlike those in Bulgaria) were unwilling to ignore narcotics smuggling just because the intended market was inside the capitalist West. One LTTE operative who was jailed in France for two years for heroin smuggling later became the chief of their international operations.

From 1985 until the early 1990s (when China White Heroin from southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle overtook heroin from Central Asia in Canadian consumer preference), the RCMP’s annual National Drug Intelligence Estimate indicated that heroin from Pakistan and Afghanistan had risen from 20 to 65% of the Canadian market. Tamil traffickers had a part of that market and one ring was mentioned in the 1991 edition of the RCMP’s report. One Tamil trafficker, Veeravagu Velmurugu, who entered Canada in 1984 as a refugee from the United States (where he had arrived in 1983 after fleeing Sri Lanka) had been jailed in Canada for life for heroin trafficking. While in Collins Bay penitentiary, he hatched a plan to escape that would have involved an aerial assault on the prison with helicopters armed with heavy machine-guns.

As the 1990s wore on and heroin from Southeast Asia picked up in volume again, the Tigers also positioned themselves to be able to take advantage of that source too. They have established a naval base for themselves on the Island of Twante, off Burma — the world’s leading source for heroin from that part of the world. The LTTE also owns its own shipping line, and have reportedly used their own merchant ships to smuggle heroin into Europe. The American government is also aware of LTTE involvement with heroin in and around southern Thailand and Burma, but in the absence of any direct threat to the US from the Tigers, the resources of their Drug Enforcement Agency are focused elsewhere.

However, there is an important point to make. While various Canadian police forces are convinced that the LTTE is making money inside Canada through a number of legal and illegal means, they have yet to make a positive connection between drug trafficking in Canada and the Tigers, although individual Tamils have been caught smuggling heroin into Canada. Another Tamil (Veluppillai Pushpanathan) was arrested with $10 million in heroin in 1987, attempted to sell heroin to an RCMP officer (three times), and managed to make a refugee claim while behind bars thanks to our Supreme Court. However, Pushpanathan is slated for extradition after the Federal Court of Canada ruled that there was "very strong evidence demonstrating the applicant’s involvement with the trafficking of heroin in a Tamil Controlled drug-dealing operation." While the direct link between the LTTE and Canadian addicts is not definite, as far as the IRB and the Federal Court are concerned, the proof in this case seems good enough.

Human Trafficking and People Smuggling

One of the fastest growing criminal enterprises of the 1990s concerns the twinned activities of human trafficking and people smuggling. This is a field of activity that might rival narcotics as the top money-earner for the insurgent and criminal cartels of the world.

People smuggling is the more common activity and essentially consists of circumventing or bypassing conventional controls on immigration and international movement. A typical example might involve a paid agent, perhaps making $40,000 per head, arranging for a dozen would-be immigrants boarding an international air flight with fraudulent documents, so that they might make carefully coached refugee claims upon landing in a Western nation.

Human trafficking is a similar activity except that smuggled people will be deprived of their liberty by the traffickers (or his real customers) on arriving in a new jurisdiction, and will be coerced into an unexpected fate. Approximately 700,000 — 900,000 people a year are subjected to this fate.

In the case of the Tamil community, it is often not always clear that the Tigers directly benefit from people smuggling into Canada — except that the Tamil community in Canada can be milked to their indirect benefit. Normally, it costs somewhere between $10,000 and $40,000 for a Sri Lankan Tamil to be brought to Canada illegally, with the usual cost running around $20-25,000 dollars. Most of the smugglers tend to be known to their clients, or come from the same community, but in many cases, the ‘agency’ making the arrangements will be operating with the permission of the LTTE.

Also, for those who are leaving Sri Lanka from areas controlled by the Tigers, a few hundred dollars will be necessary for an "exit visa" from the LTTE. In some cases, people with special skills or a greater wealth than ordinary Tamils may have to pay thousands of dollars to be entitled to leave.

Passports and travel documents are so valuable, that smugglers often re-use them again and again. One Tamil ring cracked by the RCMP in 1996 took about five years to be uncovered, and was producing hundreds of forged "counterfoil" pages with which to alter Canadian passports. (The counterfoil page is the one containing a person’s biographical information, and would have to be slipped into a real passport — blank counterfoil page go for about $100 each). Another ring was broken in 1994 with a series of six arrests, but not before the Tamil smugglers had brought thousands of people to Canada — netting a profit of about $10,000 per head on some 50 people a month. Besides acquiring 20 forged Canadian passports, the RCMP also recovered blank OHIP and Citizenship cards and phony exit and entry stamps from a number of countries.

A 1990 case of passport forgery was the first one ever to result in a Canadian conviction. Again, the perpetrators were Canadian Tamils, operating out of an apartment in Toronto. They had produced something like 1,000 doctored travel documents before being caught. Another forger, whose lab for doctoring passports was uncovered in 1991, was found to have the World Tamil Movement of Ontario’s phone number listed under ‘LTTE’ in his date book.

An alternative to flying into Canada or the US and making an undocumented refugee claim is to come by ship. The first mass wave of 155 Tamil refugees arrived this way in 1986, in two lifeboats off Nova Scotia. At first they tried to imply that they had come directly from Sri Lanka, but it turned out they had done so via India, the USSR, East Germany and Hamburg, West Germany, before taking ship across the Atlantic. Curiously, as Canadian authorities started to investigate their claims, a fire in a Hamburg police station destroyed much of the documentation associated with their earlier travels and entry into Germany. In 1987, another 174 "Sikhs" arrived in much the same way; their Dravidian faces and general lack of knowledge about the Sikh religion raised some suspicions, but most of this group of Tamils was also given refugee status anyway.

By and large, shipping oneself to North America is cheaper than flying, but it is much more uncomfortable and hazardous. In 1998, a group of 190 Tamils surrendered — most in poor health — off Senegal after paying $14,000 each to be smuggled to North America.

One interesting datum about refugee claimants from Sri Lanka. In 1992 — a time when all parties in the Sri Lankan conflict were committing atrocities -- some 8,452 Tamil refugee claimants showed up at the Sri Lankan High Commission in Ottawa to apply for travel documents for a return visit to Sri Lanka, the nation they claimed to have fled because of a well-founded fear of persecution by a supposedly genocidal government. Business remains brisk at the High Commission, and the Sri Lankan government opened a consular office in Toronto in 2000 to help handle the continuing high volume of requests for visas.

The KP Branch

The most secretive LTTE international operation is the procurement of weapons, explosives, and "dual use" technologies to sustain military and terrorist operations. This side of the LTTE is given the nickname of the "KP Branch", taking on the initials of its highest level operative, Kumaran Padmanathan. Members of this branch are not drawn from the fighting wing of the LTTE, as their identities would have been recorded and available to law enforcement and counter-intelligence agencies by India’s RAW, who had helped train many Tiger Cadres in the early 1980s. For further security, the KP Branch operates completely independently from all other sections of the LTTE, and hands the arms shipments to a small, highly trusted team in the Sea Tigers for final delivery into LTTE dominated areas.

To facilitate the activities of this clandestine international arms trafficking network, the LTTE owns and operates its own fleet of ocean-going vessels. This fleet only operates directly for the LTTE less than five percent of the time, the remainder of their time is spent transporting legitimate goods and raising hard cash for the purchase of weapons. Initially, the Tigers maintained a shipping base in Myanmar, until diplomatic pressure forced them to leave. A new base has been established on Phuket, a Thai island. LTTE ships are also known to transport heroin from the Golden Triangle to markets around the globe. Identifying the exact ownership of the vessels operating for the LTTE is a daunting task: registrations are constantly changed, holding companies are always being set up, and ships can be renamed several times on a single voyage. However, analysts are however confident that the real controller of the fleet is Padmanathan.

Probably the most skilled operation mounted by the KP Branch was the 1997 theft of 32,400 rounds of 81mm mortar ammunition purchased from Tanzania for the Sri Lankan Army. The LTTE was aware of the purchase of 35,000 mortar bombs, made a bid to the manufacturer through a numbered company to have one of their own vessels pick up the load, and then — once the bombs were loaded — switched the name and registration of their ship. Instead of transporting the cargo to its intended destination, it was taken to Tiger-held territory in Sri Lanka’s north. The Sri Lankan army eventually received the mortar bombs, one salvo at a time from LTTE mortars. It is difficult to imagine any of the old-style European groups, such as the Red Army Faction or the Red Brigades, operating with this much sophistication or verve.

For the KP Branch, the West is their money-raising territory. Profits from donations made to various front groups and through criminal enterprises are transferred into bank accounts. Money can then be transferred to the accounts of a weapons broker, or, be taken by KP operatives themselves.

What becomes painfully apparent is that the LTTE war effort relies heavily on the civilian Tamil population in Sri Lanka and abroad. Currently, one quarter of all Tamils reside outside of Sri Lanka, most having left in the past decade, making this one of the most massive shifts of any single group since the Second World War. There is no coincidence between the movement of Tamils and the LTTE’s need for resources -- it is the backbone of their international strategy. In 1995, when the LTTE lost Jaffna, their international operatives were ordered to increase, by a massive 50%, the amount raised from Tamils outside of the island.

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