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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 74

Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger Arms Purchase Agent Sentenced to Prison in U.S.

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 12 January ( U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake in Baltimore, Maryland sentenced Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, age 37, a citizen of Sri Lanka, January 3 to 57 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to provide material support to a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or popularly known as Tamil Tigers, and attempted exportation of arms and munitions, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. He will be deported from the United States after serving his sentence of incarceration.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, “We are using undercover operations targeting people who attempt to obtain military weapons in violation of American law and all other available legal tools to prevent terrorism."

"Combating terrorism and protecting our critical technologies are priorities for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). The DCIS will continue working with our partners in law enforcement to fully ensure that US Department of Defense (DoD) weapons systems and technologies are secure," said Robert Craig, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the DCIS Mid-Atlantic Field Office.

According to his plea agreement, from April to September 29, 2006 Varatharasa conspired with Haji Subandi, Haniffa Osman and Erick Wotulo to export state-of-the-art firearms, machine guns and ammunition, surface to air missiles, night vision goggles and other military weapons to the Tamil Tigers operating within Sri Lanka, to be used to fight against Sri Lankan government forces.

According to the US Department of Justice the conspirators contacted an undercover business located in Maryland about the sale of military weapons. The defendants 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 September 25, 2006 Varatharasa and Osman arrived in Saipan to meet with undercover officers and inspect the weaponry that had been ordered on behalf of the Tamil Tigers. They were transported to Guam where, the next day, Varatharasa and Osman inspected various machine guns, sniper rifles and ammunition. They also inspected two surface to air missiles and agreed to communicate to others within the Tamil Tigers regarding the availability and pricing of the missiles. After the inspection was completed, Varatharasa and Osman agreed to arrange for the transfer of money into an undercover bank account in Maryland as payment for the arms and munitions. Varatharasa also purchased food and provisions for his trip from Guam to deliver the weaponry to the Tamil Tigers at a location in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka.

Haji Subandi, age 70, a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia, was sentenced on December 14, 2007 to 37 months in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, money laundering and attempted exportation of arms and munitions.

Erick Wotulo, age 59, a retired Indonesian Marine Corps General, and Haniffa Bin Osman, age 56, a citizen of the Republic of Singapore, both pleaded guilty and face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support and 20 years in prison for money laundering. Their sentencings have not yet been scheduled.

Founded in 1976, the Tamil Tigers has advocated the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government, employing acts of violence, including suicide bombings, against both civilian and military targets. Approximately 200 such attacks have been attributed to the Tamil Tigers to date. The Tamil Tigers relies 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.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Baltimore City Police Department for their investigative work. Mr. 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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