RCMP targets Tamil funding
Graeme Hamilton and Stewart Bell
Published: Tuesday, April 07, 2009
A non-profit organization shut down last year for financing terrorism paid three fundraisers in Montreal to collect money for the Tamil Tigers guerrillas, according to newly released RCMP documents.
The alleged role played by the “paid activists” is revealed in thousands of pages of documents, photos and video filed in Federal Court this week as part of an effort by counter-terrorism officials to dismantle the World Tamil Movement.
The RCMP says the World Tamil Movement is the Canadian fundraising and propaganda arm of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, a banned Sri Lankan terrorist group known for its suicide bombings and assassinations.
In an affidavit released by the Federal Court in Montreal, Corporal Steve Dubreuil wrote that the investigation had “revealed that the World Tamil Movement and the LTTE have been demonstrated to utilize pressure tactics to elicit funds and donations as well as to participate in veiled threats.”
The stack of evidence filed by Crown prosecutors fills a dozen binders and provides the most detailed picture to date of Project Crible, a national security investigation launched in 2003 into the Quebec fundraising activities of the Tamil Tigers.
The focus of the probe: the World Tamil Movement of Quebec and eight Montreal men.
Among those listed as subjects of the investigation are Thanasegaram Chandrasegaram, Muralee Karan Thurairatnam, Manivannan Karunananthaswamy and Ramani Balendra, president of the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Tamil Congress. A parallel probe is underway in Toronto, the alleged hub of the Tamil Tigers' Canadian fundraising network. The RCMP says the WTM has also collected money in Ottawa and Vancouver.
According to the 183-page RCMP affidavit, Mr. Chandrasegaram “has been receiving monthly payments for his fundraising work with the WTM since at least 2004. The WTM have up to three of their members on the payroll for their fundraising activities.
“This demonstrates the level of involvement of Chandrasegaram in the activities of the WTM in support of the LTTE …. Numerous fund transfers to the LTTE were also handled by Chandrasegaram using his personal bank accounts.”
Also on the payroll were Mr. Thurairatnam and Mr. Karunananthaswamy, the affidavit says. Photos seized by police show Mr. Chandrasegaram and Mr. Thurairatnam posing alongside Tamil Tigers leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in Sri Lanka.
Another police photo shows Santhirakumar Perampalam, a 27-year-old World Tamil Movement activist, carrying an AK-47 at a Tamil Tigers base in Sri Lanka. In other pictures, he is holding a rocket propelled grenade launcher.
The WTM has used everything from collection jars to a sophisticated pre-authorized payment scheme to raise money in Montreal, the RCMP affidavit says. In statements filed in the court, witnesses described how Mr. Chandrasegaram, Mr. Karunananthaswamy and Mr. Thurairatnam had visited their homes and asked them to sign forms allowing the WTM to make monthly withdrawals from their bank accounts. The names of the witnesses were blacked out.
“The money collected by the WTM in Montreal is forwarded to the LTTE through the WTM Canada branch, in Toronto, or via wire transfers by members of the WTM in Montreal to a bank account in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as well as money transfer services, such as Sindi Financial,” the affidavit says.
Mr. Chandrasegaram worked at a Montreal movie house and sold books and CDs “to help people in Sri Lanka,” according to one witness from the Tamil community interviewed by police.
But the RCMP affidavit says the 36-year-old's activities went well beyond hawking books. Mr. Chandrasegaram “facilitated terrorist activities” of the Tamil Tigers, the affidavit says, labelling him and another World Tamil Movement supporter “terrorist groups” as defined by the Criminal Code.
The Crown has not laid any criminal charges, and Steven Slimovitch, lawyer for the World Tamil Movement, said the accusations against the organization and against individual members like Mr. Chandrasegaram are unfounded.
“The Tamil people in Canada clearly support their Tamil brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka,” Mr. Slimovitch said. “They have a great affinity for Tamil independence, yes, but they do not support the use of force and they do not fund terrorist organizations.” He said the Crown has not established that money raised by Canadian Tamils funded the LTTE rather than charitable works in Sri Lanka. “I'm still waiting for that link,” he said.
The evidence before Federal Court shows that Mr. Chandrasegaram is co-owner with Sivanathan Sivaraman of the Montreal property that housed the WTM's headquarters until it was seized last year. The Crown is now seeking to have the building forfeited as “property owned or controlled by or on behalf of a terrorist group.”
The affidavit describes Mr. Chandrasegaram as a member and former administrator of the WTM who was trained as an LTTE activist. In September, 2004, he was stopped at Montreal Trudeau airport by customs officials as he returned from a trip to Sri Lanka. They found he was carrying a certificate from the “Colonel Kiddu College of Political Studies” that bore the LTTE logo. Police later established that Colonel Kiddu was a former senior commander of the LTTE. Mr. Chandrasegaram was carrying photos of himself receiving the certificate from Mr. Prabhakaran, the Tamil Tiger leader.
Canada Border Services Agency officers also discovered 119 forms authorizing automatic bank withdrawals, ranging from $20- $50 a month. Anonymous witnesses interviewed by the RCMP said they were required to sign such forms in order to enter Tamil-controlled territory when visiting family in Sri Lanka. A Tamil informant, whose identity is secret, said Mr. Chandrasegaram and another man collected from people who had signed the payment forms and also “from those who are reluctant contributors,” the affidavit says.
It adds that Mr. Chandrasegaram received monthly payments for his fundraising activities since at least 2004. Between 2004 and 2006, he received a total of $18,000, according to WTM financial records.
According to RCMP reports, police have traced $3-million worth of bank transfers between 2002 and 2006 from the WTM accounts in Canada to overseas accounts, most of them linked to the Tamil Tigers.
The Canadian government placed the World Tamil Movement on its official list of terrorist entities last June, calling it a front for the Tamil Tigers and accusing it of using threats and intimidation to finance the Sri Lankan civil war.
The government is now attempting to take over the WTM's buildings, bank accounts and other property. It is the first time the government has used the forfeiture provision of the Anti-Terrorism Act. If it is successful, the government would be allowed to keep the items or sell them and use the proceeds either to compensate victims of terrorist activities or fund anti-terrorism initiatives.
But the court must first approve the forfeitures, and the Montreal branch of the World Tamil Movement intends to fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. “You're looking at a constitutional challenge to the whole law. It's brand new law,” Mr. Slimovitch said. “It is the first time in Canadian history that we have said that a certain group of people are not allowed to own property … If the government can show to a Federal Court judge that property is owned by a, quote unquote, terrorist group, then they seize the property. If you have the label of a terrorist group, you lose the civil right to own property.”
Tamils vow second day of protest in Ottawa
Exodus may signal end of Sri Lankan civil war
'Tamils are dying'
Both sides share blame for Sri Lankan troubles: Rae
Tamil Canadians cannot forget their kith and kin
Why Canada's Tamils are upset
Related Topics :
Muralee Karan Thurairatnam
War and Conflict
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Powered by Inform