The Sunday Leader

LTTE Human Smuggling Links

By Camelia Nathaniel

The LTTE engaged in human smuggling, drug trafficking, bank and financial fraud and a range of other criminal activities to fund their operations. The LTTE used their own and other human smuggling networks to move its leaders, members and their families to other countries. The favoured destination for LTTE families to move were North America (Canada, US), Europe (UK and continental Europe) and Australia and New Zealand. According to the Toronto police Tamil task force, there were as many as 8,000 members of, “Tamil terrorist factions” in Toronto in 2000. In 2012, a Canadian analyst John Thompson suggested that the LTTE created a Sri Lankan Diaspora as a mechanism to maintain an international support structure. The authorities estimate the number of former LTTE fighting cadres living in Canada at several thousand.

Some components of the networks transformed into pure criminal networks. As terrorists lacked skills in other areas, they remained committed to illegal low risk high profit means of generating revenue. As human smuggling is lucrative, it became the preferred mode of business for many former terrorists. For instance, Wimalraj, military cadre, Trincomalee, relocated to Indonesia in 2010 and build a human smuggling network. Instead of surrendering he joined the IDP welfare centre in Vavuniya and then he travelled by trawler from Batticaloa to Australia.

However, the trawler was intercepted and he was held in custody. He sought asylum with the UNHCR office in Indonesia and engaged in human smuggling. Wimalraj and his associates charged Rs 700,000 to Rs 2 million to travel by trawler to some of the preferred destinations. His younger brother Kannawan, an LTTE supporter works in the LTTE office in France. He collects information about both unrehabilitated and rehabilitated LTTE cadres in Sri Lanka.

Lobbying politicians

Although the LTTE was dismantled in Sri Lanka, some of their international networks especially the human smuggling operations continue. While most generate funds by illegal transactions for their personal gain, some of those who manage and operate the networks contribute to the LTTE. The LTTE use the funds for a range of propaganda and political activities including lobbying politicians and to support its human rights agenda in Geneva. Many with human smuggling skills but lacked the motivation to remain in the LTTE after its defeat, operate independently earning money for themselves.

However the role of the LTTE in human smuggling first came to the attention of western governments after the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launched an operation to investigate the LTTE US network. Starting in 2001, the FBI developed a comprehensive understanding of how the LTTE earned money from human smuggling. Vijayshanthar Patpanathan alias Chandru was in charge of LTTE fundraising.

The deputy head of the LTTE in the US, Chandru was also in charge of the revenue for the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), the main LTTE front for raising and moving funds for procurement and other illegal activities. In 2001, Chandru brought 12 people to the US who subsequently went to Canada. Both Chandru and his associate Yoga who were subsequently arrested, cooperated with the FBI. They said that the money was for the LTTE. Chandru charged about USD 12,000 per passenger. The LTTE human smuggling operations were handled by the intelligence wing, the sea Tiger and political wing of the LTTE. Even after the end of conflict in Sri Lanka, the external leaders of the Sea Tiger wing engaged in human smuggling operations.

Engaged in human smuggling

After the end of conflict however, the LTTE arms traffickers living in Canada and the UK engaged in human smuggling. In 2009 and 2010, the LTTE launched a multi-million dollar human smuggling operation by MV Ocean Lady (76 crew and passengers) and MV Sun Sea (492 crew and passengers). Spearheaded by two former Sea Tigers, Ravishankar Kanagarajah of Canada and Shanmugasundaram Kanthaskaran of the UK, the LTTE also facilitated the passage of over 200 LTTE leaders, members and their families to Canada.

The LTTE renamed its arms ship MV Princess Easwary as MV Ocean Lady and purchased MV Harin Panich 19 and renamed it MV Sun Sea. Captained by Kamalraj Kandasamy, who transported tens of thousands of tons of arms, ammunition and explosives on board MV Princess Easwary from North Korea to Sri Lanka from 1997 – 2009, today lives in Canada. With Vinod, the Deputy of Kamal claiming asylum in Norway, MV Sun Sea was captained by Sivagnanam Sivaharan alias Kausi and others who had served on the North Korean voyages smuggling lethal cargo.

A LTTE front in Canada, the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) provided legal and financial aid to the LTTE crew and passengers but also projected that they were bona fide refugees and not terrorists. As the key LTTE cadres and their families arrived in Vancouver, the very next day David Poopalapillai with his team flew to Vancouver to defend the LTTE infiltrators and counter Canadian efforts to develop tough legislation. Gary Anandasangaree of CTC provided legal counsel.

As individuals a few hundred engaged in human smuggling that took different forms. A case that has been brought by a group of Canadian Sri Lankans to the attention of the Canadian authorities is of Senthilkumaran from Canada. According to documents, Senthilkumaran identified himself as a Sri Lankan from Velvettithurai but many believe he came from Tamil Nadu, India. Uma, his sister is married to Suresh Kumar, a relative of Prabhakaran.

With the collaboration of local artists, Senthikumaran started a musical group with the help of Uma. Then he brought down Indian artists to raise funds stating he wanted to build a Canadian Tamil village in the Wanni area, closer to Mannar. After a few shows, he posted on the web a picture of construction work in the Wanni area with the Canadian flag. People appreciated it and went for his shows to raise money. The costs of bringing artists and after paying for the hall, money raised through musical shows were insufficient to make a margin of profit.

The Canadian authorities are inquiring if under the pretext of bringing makeup artists and musicians, Senthilkumaran engaged in human smuggling. It is alleged that Senthikumaran charged CD 30,000-40,000 per artiste for their passage. When the conflict ended, the public who funded these shows realised there was no Canadian village. Senthilkumaran held a meeting at the Baba Banquet Hall 3300 McNicoll Avenue, Scarborough to explain about the money he collected. Using his brother in law, Suresh Kumar, an accountant, a presentation of the balance sheet (income and expenditure) was presented in which he said he gave the money to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organiation.

Most human smugglers including LTTE cadres engaged in this enterprise only for a specific period. When they make enough money they move to other areas of business. There are however a few dozen human smugglers in Sri Lanka who have engaged in this enterprise for several years. Today they work in collaboration with human smugglers in transit and destination countries.

However in order to prevent this practice from continuing, the Government of Sri Lanka should create a multiagency task force with police, intelligence, military and information specialists and representatives from the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment to dismantle the human smuggling industry and prevent their operations. The Government should also in parallel start a name and shame Champaign. When arrests are made, they must be publicised. There is a difficulty in prosecution as there is no proof as cash is given to the agent without a receipt. According to experts in this field, these are the legal challenges that need to be overcome, if this lucrative business of human trafficking is to be stopped.

6 Comments for “LTTE Human Smuggling Links”

  1. Camelia Nathaniel you write like the lecturer in Singapore who was sued and lost the case in Canada why a female pseudonym it is OK you can be cross dresser but why exhibit publicly ?

    Good luck sir


  2. John Thomson comment can be bought for cup of starbucks no one at TIMs
    when you need comments get from people who matter he was playing to the gallery when the LTTE was active

    To keep the government in place you can cut and paste all the news that is available in the public domain


  3. One time under the leadership of great Lasantha Wickrematunga this news paper was a quality paper. But now this new paper is becoming a mouth piece of the regime. Most of the articles published in this news paper are fabricated to create ethnic disturbance. There is no truth about LTTE. They are dead and buried. Those who are involved in human smuggling are crooks and that includes Tamils,Sinhala and Muslim people. They all know foreign governments including Europe, UK, Canada and Australia will not take anymore refugees from Sri Lanka. That is a fact.

  4. gamarala

    Human smuggling is a thriving business in sri lanka,and an MP of the regime and the navy are implicated,according to national news sources. Firstly,these should be probed.

  5. Kevin

    Why not ask KP?. He knows it all and is sitting comfortably in a Sri Lankan government facility.

  6. Kevin

    “Senthikumaran charged CD 30,000-40,000 per artiste for their passage.” That’s also the sort of sums paid to be smuggled as boat people to Australia, even by Sinhala Buddhists from the deep south. So why are people paying that kind of money to leave the miracle of Asia? ESCAPE?

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