Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2526

LTTE arms dealers fall into FBI trap

By Asian Tribune US Bureau

Washington, D.C. 17 September (Asiantribune.com): The failed attempts of the LTTE on all fronts reflect the lack of direction and desperation is reflected in the FBI documents presented to the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York. The bungled arms deal in USA is an example of the LTTE’s desperation.

The courts’ documents revealed the incompetence of the LTTE. Its arms procuring agents were caught in USA. These losses have cost the LTTE heavily in terms of money, prestige and power.

The FBI documents filed in the courts in the case of MM- 06 – 889, was a complaint filed under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339B and 3551 et seq at the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York reveals how the noose is tightening.

The following LTTE agents are indicted in the court according to the FBI complaint filed in the courts.

United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, United States of America

Against

Sathajhan Srachandran, lso known as "Satha," Sahilal Sabaratnmam, also known as "Sahil" and "Shakil, "

Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam, also known as "Thani,"

Nadarasa Yograrasa, also known as "Yoga," and

Piratheepan Nadarajah, also known as "Nada,"

At the Eastern District of New York,: James J. Tareco being duly sworn deposes and states that he is a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, duly appointed according to law and acting as such.

Upon information and belief, in or about and between 2003 and the present, both dates being approximate and inclusive, within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, the defendants :

Sathajhan Sarachandran, also known as "Satha,"

Sahilal Sabaratnam, also known as "Sahil" and "Shakil,

Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam, also known as "Thani,"

Nadarasa Yograrasa, also known as "Yoga," and

Piratheepan Nadarajah, also known as "Nada," - together with others, did knowingly and intentionally conspire to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization, to wit, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.(Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2339B (a)(l) and 3551 e_t se.)

The source of your deponent's information and the grounds for his belief are as follows:-

1. I have been a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), for over nine years. My information about this investigation comes from my personal participation in this investigation and a review of e-mails, tapes and transcripts of certain consensually recorded meetings and telephone calls, intercepted telephone communications and other physical and documentary evidence.

F acts and Circumstances

I. Background

2. Since 1999, FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force ("JTTF") have been conducting an investigation of individuals and Charitable organizations for violating United States criminal law by providing material support to the Liberation. Tigers of Tamil Eelam ("LTTE" or "Tamil Tigers"). Tamils are a minority ethnic group within Sri Lanka, and the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers, was founded in 1976 and uses illegal methods to raise money, acquire weapons and technology and publicize its cause of establishing an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka. The LTTE started its armed conflict against the Sri Lankan Government in 1983, and has utilized a guerrilla strategy that often includes acts of terrorism. The LTTE controls most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka, but has conducted operations throughout the island. The LTTE has several thousand armed combatants in Sri Lanka.

3. The group's elite Black Tiger squad is notorious for its suicide bombings. Over the past 15 years, the LTTE has conducted roughly 200 suicide bombings. Major recent terrorist attacks include: on June 15, 2006, the LTTE detonated a remote controlled claymore mine, blowing-up an overcrowded civilian bus and killing 64 people, including 15 children; on April 25, 2006, a female suicide bomber targeted Sri Lanka's top military commander, seriously wounding him and killing eight people; on July 7, 2004, a female LTTE suicide bomber blew herself up inside a police station in Sri Lanka's capital, killing five police officers and violating a two-year cease fire; on July 24, 2001,

LTTE suicide bombers attacked Sri Lanka's main air base (and only international airport), killing 12 people and destroying 13 aircraft; on October 2, 2000, an LTTE suicide bomber killed 23 people, including a Muslim political candidate who was contesting parliamentary elections; on December 18, 1999, 38 people were killed by LTTE suicide bombers in two attacks on election rallies; and on January 25, 1998, LTTE suicide bombers attacked Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist shrine and killed 16 people. The LTTE is also notorious for political assassinations, including the May 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi; the 1993 assassination of the President of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa; the July 1999 assassination of Neelan Thiruchelvam, a member of the Sri Lankan parliament who was involved in a government-sponsored peace initiative; the attempted assassination of Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga in December 1999; and the June 2000 assassination of C.V. Goonaratne, the Sri Lankan Industry Minister.

4. Until recently, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government were operating under a tenuous cease-fire agreement reached in 2002, but over the period of the last several months, the agreement has rapidly crumbled. On November 18, 2005", Mahinda Rajapakse was elected Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. LTTE strongly opposes Rajapakse, and on November 27, 2005, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran issued an ultimatum that the LTTE would intensify its attacks in 2006 if Tamils were not given an independent homeland. In the months immediately following Prabhakaran's speech, the LTTE conducted numerous attacks, including the murder of 15 Sri Lankan Army soldiers and three Muslim civilians in multiple attacks in early December 2005, the abduction of three Sri Lankan Navy sailors on December 22, the murder of several sailors on December 23 and, as noted, the targeting of Sri Lanka's top military commander and murder of eight individuals on April 25, 2006.

5. The fighting between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government has escalated even further over the course of the past month. In August 2006, for example, the LTTE has launched attacks on the government-controlled Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, which the LTTE claims as the cultural homeland of the Tamil minority.

The Sri Lankan army responded with artillery and mortar fire, and media reports have indicated that since August 11, 2006, approximately 800 LTTE fighters and government soldiers have been killed in the fighting in Jaffna. Warfare has also broken out in the eastern port of Trincomalee, where fighting over irrigation channel controlled by the LTTE has reportedly resulted in the deaths of 400 soldiers and rebels. Assassinations and targeted bombings have also escalated. On August 12, 2006, the Deputy Chief of the Sri Lankan Government's Peace Secretariat, Ketheshwaran Loganathan, was murdered by gunmen in the capitol of Colombo, and on August 14, 2006, Pakistan's ambassador to Sri Lanka escaped injury after a roadside bombing in downtown Colombo that reportedly killed four members of the Sri Lanka army and three bystanders.

Additionally, seventeen employees of the international aid agency Action Contre la Faim, which worked on tsunami reconstruction and provided water and sanitation services, were found shot to death in the town of Muttur, and the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE have blamed each other for the killings.

6. In light of the escalating violence in Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, the Norwegian official who originally negotiated the cease-fire, has reportedly said that "only the skeleton of the cease-fire is left." The LTTE has been even more explicit, with S. Elilan, an LTTE official in Trincomalee, reportedly stating that "the cease-fire is over."

7. The LTTE manages its worldwide operations through a hierarchical organizational structure. As discussed, the head of the LTTE is Velupillai Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran maintains close oversight over almost all aspects of the LTTE's worldwide activities. S.P. Tamilselvan is the head of the LTTE's political wing. Pottu Amman leads the intelligence and operations wing, Veerakathi Manivannan, also known as "Castro," is the LTTE's "International Communications Secretariat."

8.The LTTE relies heavily upon supporters in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and elsewhere to rise and launder money, acquire intelligence and purchase technology and military arms and equipment.

9. The LTTE has been designated by the United States State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since 1997, and is banned in several other countries as well. As such, the LTTE cannot legally raise money or procure operational equipment or other materials in the United States. Individuals involved in these activities or other forms of material support are subject to federal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 2339B and other statutes.

II. Arms DealL

10. On or about July 30, 2006, a confidential informant ("CI-1") received a telephone call from the defendant Nadarasa Yogarasa ("Yoga"). Based on prior dealings, Yoga believed that CI-1 had a relationship with a black market arms dealer who could acquire heavy military artillery, including missiles. The call was consensually recorded, and was conducted in the Tamil language.

According to a draft summary translation,-7 Yoga advised CI-1 that someone wanted to meet with CI-1 about a potential arms deal. CI-1 and YOGA agreed that the three would meet to discuss the deal the next day at a location in Queens, New York.

11. As planned, on or about July 31, 2006, CI-1, Yoga and an individual subsequently identified as defendant Sathajhan Sarachandran ("Satha"), met at the agreed-upon location. Satha, who had traveled to New York from Canada for this meeting, advised CI-1 that he was taking direction from Pottu Amman, who handled "outside purchasing" of arms for the LTTE. Pottu Amman leads the intelligence and operations wing of the LTTE.

According to published reports, Pottu Amman was among the early members of the LTTE, is alleged to have masterminded the 1991 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and was appointed by LTTE leader Prabhakaran to retake the northern Sri
Lankan peninsula of Jaffna after the Sri Lankan military took control of the peninsula from the LTTE in about December 1995.

12. In advising the types of weapons sought on behalf of the LTTE, SATHA told CI-1 that they needed "the ones for up to the Kfir." "Kfir" is an Israeli-made fighter jet, which the Sri
Lankan military has been using, with success, against the LTTE. In other words, SATHA told Yoga and CI-1 that he was seeking weapons to use against Sri Lankan military jet aircraft. SATHA explained that a "big guy" in Canada was Pottu Amman's direct contact and was going "there" - a reference to LTTE-controlled territory in Sri Lanka - to get a list of the items they wanted to purchase. CI-1 asked Satha if he had ever met with "Thaliavar," which means the "leader" in Tamil, a common name used to describe LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. Satha said that he had met him three years ago. SATHA also told CI-1 that if he assisted them with this project, CI-1 would have the satisfaction of knowing that he had helped his country.

13. After the meeting, Yoga gave CI-1 Satha’s e-mail address. Later that day, at the FBI's direction, CI-1 sent an e- mail to Satha with a subject line of "met you today" and the following message:

"Thanks for meeting. I will contact my guy to see what he has. If it is ok do you want me to send you pictures of the merchandise. If you need to contact me you can respond to this email or call my cell ..." On or about August 1, 2006, Satha replied to CI-l's e-mail, stating: "Thanks for the quick e- mail. I am waiting for your merchandise pictures."

On or about August 2, 2006, the FBI sent another e-mail from CI-l's account to Satha. The e-mail stated, "here are photos of what my guy has available. Sa 18 Russian made shoulder fired. Let me know if your guys are interested. Give me a list of what they want and I'll ask him what he can get." Attached to the e-mail were two photographs of a Russian-made SA 18 surface-to-air missile.

14. On or about August 5, 2006, Satha received an e- mail from Yoga with the subject line, "test . . . rajah USA." The e-mail contained a message in the Tamil language, which is roughly translated, "Please send it to this e-mail." The next day, August 6, Satha sent a reply e-mail to Yoga with the following message: "I received your e-mail. I need catlog [sic] for something for sky and any American made Ak47 rifle. Please inform ASAP." "AK47 rifle" is a reference to a type of assault
rifle.

15. On or about August 7, 2006, CI-1 and Yoga met in Queens, New York. They again discussed various weapons that the LTTE wanted to purchase, including, among other things, AK-47s and truck-mounted missile systems. CI-1 and Yoga also called Satha in Canada on his mobile telephone. Satha stated, in sum and substance, that he received CI-1's e-mail, and had forwarded it "over there," - i.e., to LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka.

16. On or about August 8, 2006, Satha sent an e-mail to his LTTE contact in Sri Lanka who works for Pottu Amman, the head of intelligence and operations for the LTTE. The e-mail quotes the prices for the Russian-made missiles: "sal8 $75,000 US 1 reusable and 1 needle "and" 1 needle $50,000 US." "Needle" is a code word used to refer to the missile. Satha attached to the e-mail the two photographs of the missile that CI-1 had e-mailed to Satha.

17. On or about August 11, 2006, CI-1 and Satha spoke on the telephone. The call was consensually recorded. Satha told CI-1 that "we have shown it to Periyappa' over there," and that he was very interested. "Periyappa" literally means "father's older brother," and is used to describe someone of high stature. CI-1 asked Satha whether "uncle" had seen the pictures, and Satha responded that "even people above him have seen it."

18. CI-1 said that "the only person above him is Thaliavar' himself" - i.e., Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE - and Satha said, "Then who else?" Satha then added that he had been tasked to look into the details about this project.

19. On or about August 14, 2006, an undercover law enforcement officer posing as the black market arms dealer ("UC- 1") called Satha on the telephone. The call was consensually recorded, and was conducted in English. Satha told UC-1 that he had heard a lot about him, and that "unfortunately we need to meet fast, uh, ASAP." He explained that one of his partners just arrived from another country and that they wanted to meet with UC-1 about "how we can proceed with business." Satha emphasized that "We are very serious about this matter. Nothing about the joke or nothing about that, like wasting your time and my time.

20. Satha mentioned to UC-1 the possibility of meeting at the border or at "your place," i.e., the New York metropolitan area. UC-1 replied that "I'm not up there at the border right now. . . And if I come up to the border . . .I'm not dragging this stuff up there." Satha said, "I got it, so we are to come [ ] to you, right?" UC-1 replied, "It depends if you want to see it.

If you just want to get together and talk. . . But, but if you want, if you're serious about it and you want to do this . you make arrangements, decide . . . what airport you want to come in, [ ] I'll have [CI-1] pick you up and bring you to me." Satha agreed, and said that he needed to talk to UC-1 about the "logistic problem" - "how we gonna' get em' and stuff like that." Satha said that one of his partners, subsequently identified by Satha as defendant Piratheepan Nadarajah, also known as "Nada," ("Nada"), was responsible for the "technical side," and that he would speak with him about the details of the purchase.

21. UC-1 concluded the call by telling Satha: "The only thing I ask you is one favor. [ ] Don't waste my time." Satha again stressed how "serious" they were about the deal. UC- 1 stated, "No disrespect but you gotta be able to do it. If you're gonna' do it we'll do it. If you're not gonna' do it, forget about it." Satha agreed, and said that they would also look over the "security part" of the deal. Satha said that as long as CI-1 was there, there would be no issue.

22. On or about August 15, 2005, Satha called CI-1 on the telephone. The call was consensually recorded. Satha said that "he has arrived," i.e., that the "big guy" in Canada who had traveled to Sri Lanka to obtain a list of weapons that the LTTE wanted to acquire, had returned. Satha stated that he and the "big guy" were planning on traveling to New York on Friday evening, August 18, and that they wanted to meet with UC-1 on Saturday morning, August 19. He said that four people, including himself, were coming for the meeting, that "we have done extensive research on things and 99%, 90% it is okay with us to pick it up."

Satha said that they wanted to purchase between 50 to 100 "needles" - i.e. - Russian-made SA 18 surface-to-air missiles - and to inform UC-1 that they wanted this higher quantity. Satha explained to CI-1 that, "Sometimes getting five or ten needles is not worth it. [] It has to be obtained in bulk. At our rate if we fire ten at least two will hit." Satha told CI-1 to "tell him [UC-1] that we are all quite serious."

23. Satha and CI-1 had additional telephone conversations to further discuss the specifics of their trip to New York. The calls were consensually recorded. They also discussed where the missiles would be delivered, and Satha said they have to reach "Thongal" - Tamil for "island" - which CI-1 understood to be a code for Sri Lanka. CI-1 asked about payment, and Satha replied that "the guy who is coming is aware of that" and would be able to discuss the details. Satha added that another "detail" was loading the missiles, and said "If he could ship it to our destination we will arrange to get it all cleared at the other side. We will take care of it at the other shore."

24. On Friday, August 18, 2006, defendants Satha , Piratheepan Nadarajah, also known as "Nada" ("Nada"), Sahilal Sabaratnam ("Sahil") and Thirukanthan Thanikasalam ("ThaniI") attempted to drive across the border from Canada to New York. They were questioned by a U.S. Customs official about the purpose of their trip, and they claimed that they were going to Buffalo, New York for a bachelor party. The Customs official ran their names through a government database and discovered that defendant Nada had a criminal record. The Customs official advised Nada that he would not be permitted to enter the United States.

25. Satha, Sahil and Thani passed through the border in their vehicle to New York, while Nada took a taxi cab back to Canada.

26. On Saturday morning, August 19, 2006, CI-1 talked to Yoga on the telephone. The two discussed the arms deal that was scheduled to take place that day, and Yoga instructed CI-1 to call him afterward for an update. CI-1 subsequently met 15 defendants Satha , Sahil and Thani at a location in Long Island, New York. An undercover agent ("UC-4") drove to the location. Satha, Sahil, Thani and CI-1 got into CI-l's vehicle and followed UC-4's vehicle to a location in Long Island.

26. Satha, Sahil, Thani and CI-1 met for several hours with UC-1 and another undercover law enforcement officer posing as a technical expert in military weaponry ("UC-2") at the Long Island location. The meeting was consensually recorded. At the beginning of the meeting, UC-1 asked the defendants what they wanted to purchase. Thani stated that "We need'something for Kfir," and they discussed that "Kfir" were the Israeli-made fighter jets. UC-1 asked, "You want to shoot this airplane down?" Thani said yes. Thani also explained that they needed weaponry to destroy boats.

27. UC-1 stressed the importance of having the financial terms and manner of payment in place before delivery of any weapons is made, and Thani later explained that they could have money available by "Monday or Tuesday," meaning August 21 or 22, 2006.

During the meeting, Satha and Sahil repeatedly attempted to place a call on a cellular telephone to their contact about the specifics of the payment funds transfer. The parties discussed using bank accounts in Switzerland, St. Croix or other offshore locations. Sahil, who was identified as the "financial guy," explained that the accounts they used would have to be active accounts.

Specifically, Sahil explained, in sum and substance, "If there is no activity in the account and you throw in a million dollars, that is going to raise a red flag. They will freeze the accounts on both sides." The parties discussed depositing the money into an account that CI-1 controlled and, after UC-1 effectuated the transfer of the arms, the money would be transferred to UC-1.

28. The defendants Satha , Sahil and Thani explained that defendant Nada, whom they described as the "scientist" and expert in technical issues, was stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border and turned around. However, they said that defendant Sahil was also an expert in technical issues.

29. The parties also discussed how the arms would be
transferred. Thani stated that they wanted delivery to occur ship-to-ship in the Indian Ocean. (Sri Lanka is located in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of India.) ThaniI and Sahil explained that UC-1 would no longer be responsible after the arms
were transferred to their ship.

30. Training of LTTE fighters in Sri Lanka on operating the missiles was also discussed. Thani said that this was a very important issue. UC-1 said that they could either be trained by video or that UC-2 could provide the training himself. Thani and Sahil said that they wanted UC-2 to travel to Sri Lanka to train the ultimate users of the arms, and promised that UC-2 would be kept safe from the major fighting occurring in Sri Lanka now. UC-1 asked how the fighters were currently being trained, and Sahil and Thani said that they used simulators. Sahil stated that UC-2 would be training "the guys on the ground."

31. UC-1 asked whether "you guys" currently have the Russian-made SA 18 surface-to-air missiles. Thani said no, that they currently have "7s," a reference to the Russian-made SA 7 surface-to-air missile. Thani said that the "7s" are not effective in hitting aircraft. He explained that it currently took two to three missiles to hit an aircraft. Public source reporting confirms that the LTTE utilizes SA 7 surface-to-air missiles.

Thani also explained that they wanted to purchase AK- 47s, a type of assault rifle. He said that they currently use Chinese-made AK-47s, but that they are "garbage." He specifically asked for American- or Russian-made weapons.

32. During the meeting, the parties discussed the quantity and price of the SA 18s and AK-47s that the defendants Satha, Sahil and ThaniI were attempting to buy. The parties agreed that an initial shipment would consist of 10 SA 18 missiles and 500 AK-47s, and that UC-2 would provide technical training on the use of the missiles. The parties also discussed a total price of between $900,000 and $937,500 for the missiles, the AK-47s and the training.

33. During the meeting, UC-1 asked the defendants Satha, Sahil and Thani if they wanted to see an SA 18 surface-to- air missile and the AK-47s they were discussing. Defendant Thani indicated that he wanted to see the items, and UC-2, with assistance, brought in a long wooden crate containing an SA 18 missile. As UC-2 began to open the crate, defendant Sahil, commenting on the crate, said that it looked like a "casket." UC-1 responded that the missiles would put quite a few people in caskets, and defendant Sahil laughed and said "Yes." Another undercover law enforcement officer ("UC-3") then brought in a large cardboard box containing two AK-47 assault rifles.

34. UC-2 opened the crate containing the SA 18 missile and brought the missile components, including the firing tube and a trigger mechanism, to a nearby desk. Defendants Satha, Sahil and Thani all approached the desk to look at the missile, and UC- 2 explained the components and how the missile worked. As UC-2 described the missile, Thani picked up the missile tube and placed it in his shoulder, in the same manner as it would be used to shoot down a plane. Thani discussed the speed of the aircraft that would be shot down with the missile, Satha asked about how far ahead of a target aircraft the missile tube could be aimed, and Sahil asked about the speed of the missile. Satha, Sahil and Thani also each looked into the barrel of the missile tube, to view what UC-2 had told them was a live missile.

35. After Satha, Sahil and Thani had viewed the SA 18, UC-2 indicated that he would show them the AK-47s. Satha, Sahil and Thani each held the AK-47s in the firing position, and when UC-1 inquired whether they wanted a model with a rigid wooden stock or a collapsible stock, Thani said, "We need the quality," and indicated that he wanted the model with the collapsible stock. UC-1 asked if they already had the model with the collapsible stock, and Thani responded, "Oh yes we have tons of them, tons of them, 40,000, 50,000 people carrying this." Public source reporting confirms that the LTTE relies heavily upon Russian-made AK-47s.

36. During the course of the meeting, Sahil and Thani also asked about various other weapons and military items. For example, Thani discussed with UC-2 the use and availability of anti-tank missiles, "fire finders" that would enable the LTTE to track the location from which enemy fire had come, and surface- to-surface missiles that could be used for attacking targets such as ships.

Defendant Sahil also asked about the availability of other weaponry, including American- and French-made surface-to- air missiles, and a "forty-forty," which, based on the conversation, appears to have been a reference to a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) that can fire multiple surface-to- surface rockets imultaneously. UC-1 also asked if the defendants were interested in night vision equipment, and Thani said they were. However, when UC-2 took out night vision goggles and handed them to Thani, Thani indicated that the goggles were only "Generation 2," and that they wanted "Generation 3."

37. UC-2 subsequently gave a signal to fellow law enforcement officers, and defendants Satha , Sahil and Tani were placed under arrest.

38. Following the above-described meeting regarding the arms deal, CI-1 met with defendant Yoga at a location in Queens. The meeting was consensually recorded. Based on a debriefing of CI-1, Yoga A asked CI-1 about the meeting with the purported arms dealer that included CI-1 and defendants Satha, Sahil and Thani. CI-1 reported the details of the meeting, including that the defendants had viewed a missile and an AK-47 assault rifle. Yoga expressed pleasure with the results of the meeting. Following the meeting with CI-1, Yoga was arrested.

39. Wherefore, your deponent respectfully requests that an arrest warrant be issued for defendant Piratheepan Nadarajah, also known as "Nada," and that the defendants Sathajhan Sarachandran, also known as "Satha, " Sahilal Sabaratnam, also known as "Sahil" and "Shakil," Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam, also known as "Thani," Nadarasa Yograrasa, also known as "Yoga," be dealt with according to law.

Because of the nature and content of the charges alleged herein, the government requests that the complaint and arrest warrants be filed under seal until further order of this Court.

I.J.Tareoo, Special Agent Federal Bureau of Investigation

Sworn Before United State Magistrate Eastern District of New York
21 August 2006

Please Note:This is not the complete text of the official document.

Also Read:4FBI Court Document Reveals in Detail: Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger Arms Procurement Plot

- Asian Tribune -

Share this


.