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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2523

Indonesian Pleads Guilty of Providing ‘Material Support’ To Sri Lanka Tamil Tigers in US Court

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 09 March (Asiantribune.com): Haji Subandi, 69, a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia, pleaded guilty March 8 to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka, two counts of money laundering and attempted exportation of arms and munitions, announced U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland.

"We are committed to using all available legal tools to prevent terrorism, including undercover operations targeting people who attempt to obtain military weapons in violation of American law," stated U.S. Attorney Rosenstein.

The Tamil Tigers targeted a convoy of foreign diplomats on 27 February when their aircraft was landing in Sri Lanka’s eastern city of Batticaloa inflicting injuries to the Italian and EU ambassadors. The convoy included Robert O’Blake the American Ambassador to Sri Lanka. They were on a fact finding tour with a senior Sri Lankan minister to inspect international humanitarian assistance to refugees in that part of the country.

The Asian Tribune presents the following report based on information obtained by the United States Department of Defense.

According to the plea agreement, from April to September 29, 2006 Subandi and Erick Wotulo conspired with others to export state-of-the-art firearms, machine guns and ammunition, surface to air missiles, night vision goggles and other military weapons to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers), to be used to fight against Sri Lankan government forces which are fighting to safeguard its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The Tamil Tigers had been fighting in Sri Lanka to win a separate ethnic minority Tamil state in this South Asian nation’s North and Eastern provinces, former predominantly Tamil and latter a mixed Sinhalese majority, Tamils and Muslims with equal percentages. Nevertheless, the Tamil Tigers in recent times have lost its call as the ‘sole representative of the Tamil People’ as approximately 54% of ethnic Tamil minority live in other provinces whose majority is Sinhalese, the majority (74%) ethnic community in the country. A majority of the Tamil Diaspora in Western nations since late has been distancing itself from the Tamil Tigers due to its brutality against the Tamil minority in the northern areas it controls.

The conspirators contacted an undercover business located in Maryland about the sale of military weapons. Subandi and Wotulo aided in the acquisition and proposed delivery of military technology to the Tamil Tigers by requesting price quotes and negotiating the purchases. Subandi sent an itemized list of 53 military weapons, including sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers that he wanted to acquire for the Tamil Tigers.

On June 7, 2006, Subandi emailed the undercover business that Tamil Tigers is a terrorist organization and is "sealed off by the U.S. Government and the E.U. countries as terrorist." In July 2006, a conspirator met with undercover agents in Baltimore to inspect and test-fire some of the weapons.

Central to the plan to acquire arms and munitions for the Tamil Tigers was the international wire transfer on August 2, 2006 of $250,000 into an undercover bank account in Maryland. This transfer was a down payment for the arms, and the conduct is reflected in the money laundering charge contained in count three of the superseding indictment. An additional $452,000 payment was transferred on Sept. 28, 2006 for the arms.

In September 2006, Subandi repeatedly met with undercover agents in Guam, and discussed current and future sales of weapons and other technology to the Tamil Tigers and to other customers. He was arrested on Sept. 28, 2006.

On Sept. 24, 2006, Subandi, Rinehard Rusli and Helmi Soedirdja contacted undercover agents to acquire monocular night vision devices and a holographic weapons sight. On Aug. 31, 2006, Rusli and Soedirdja transmitted $2,950 from Indonesia to the U.S. to obtain the items which contain military technology that cannot be exported without a license or written authorization from the State Department. Subandi, Rusli and Soedirdja arrived in Guam from Indonesia on Sept. 21, 2006, and subsequently met with undercover agents to examine the night vision devices. They also discussed the future acquisition of additional military use technology items. Satisfied with the night vision devices and holographic weapons sight, Rusli and Soedirdja placed the items in their luggage and traveled to the airport in Guam to return to Indonesia.

They were detained at the airport by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and the devices were recovered from their luggage. Subandi stayed in Guam to attend matters relating to the arms acquisition for the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka.

Wotulo, 59, a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia and a retired Indonesian Marine Corps General, pleaded guilty on Feb. 23, 2007, to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and money laundering. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for money laundering.

Reinhard Rusli, 34, and Helmi Soedirdja, 33, both citizens of Indonesia, pleaded guilty to attempting to illegally export arms and money laundering on Jan. 30, 2007. They face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine for money laundering and 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine for attempted exportation of arms.

The Tamil Tigers employ acts of violence, including suicide bombings, against both civilian and military targets. They rely heavily upon supporters throughout the world to raise and launder money, acquire intelligence and purchase military use technology.

The U.S. Department of State designated the Tamil Tigers as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. As such, the Tamil Tigers cannot legally raise money or procure operational equipment in the United States.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the investigative work performed by ICE, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the FBI and the Baltimore City Police Department. U.S. Attorney Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Maryland James G. Warwick and Harry M. Gruber, who are prosecuting the case; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Eisenberg, Chief of National Security, who is supervising the case.

- Asian Tribune -

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