Exposed: LTTE’s Human Smuggling Ring
by Faraz Shaukaly in Sunday Leader, 13 February 2011
A downmarket area in Bangkok, home to would be immigrants until they board a vessel Photo by Chanaka Ratnaweera / Media Colombo and The Thai registered 760-ton Macgregor type cargo ship, Harin Panich 19, renamed as the MV Sun Sea – which was used to bring 493 illegal immigrants to Canada.Canada spent US$ 25 million on illegals onboard MV Sun Sea.
Pic by Darren Stone of Postmedia
A major human smuggling ring has been identified by The Sunday Leader. A group of 198 persons have assembled in the Thai capital, Bangkok, awaiting vessels which will take them either to Australia or Canada. Under covert circumstances, The Sunday Leader spoke with the principal Thai coordinator for the illegal operation, Thirunawukarasu Balachandran, also known in LTTE circles as “Uganda Bala” who confirmed various details, including giving out the location where some of these immigrants are housed awaiting the vessel.
In a downmarket area of the bustling Thai capital, not far off a section of Silom Road, on Soi 47, Uganda Bala receives his “clients” – in the majority, Tamil speaking citizens of Sri Lanka, looking to leave these shores in search of pastures greener than they are in, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and even Colombo.
Duped into believing that we had four brothers wishing to emigrate, Bala asked The Sunday Leader to send “our brothers” to him, gave us directions to the accommodation and spelled out the financial plan he has drawn up: US$ 5,000 in Colombo, in exchange for which they arranged the ticket and the Thai visa. A further US$ 5,000 would have to be paid once the immigrant arrived in Bangkok. This was done by the simple expediency of depositing rupees in a Commercial Bank account (the account details are also known to The Sunday Leader) and using the international card issued by them, to withdraw funds from an ATM in Bangkok.
Until the vessel arrived, he would “care” for the immigrants by giving them food and shelter. They would, however, have to be confined indoors – no one was to leave to go out so much as for a walk, as they did not wish to arouse the Thai authorities – especially after a fiasco last year and the arrest in Bangkok of yet another human smuggler, known as “German Babu” (Real name Nadesan Jeeyananthan) just last month.
The final part of the deal requires a payment of US$ 20,000. This has to be “guaranteed” by a relative anywhere in Europe, Canada, Australia or the United States even – in essence, anywhere in the West where money was available and can be moved around easily. The immigrant is not allowed to “board” until Uganda Bala gets confirmation from his “boys” on the ground that they have received the necessary assurances.
These are the LTTE enforcers and collectors located all around the world, from the backstreets of Tooting, South West London to the immigrant areas of Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and of course, Thailand. These are the very collectors, who care little for the niceties of the various laws in mainland North America, Europe and Australia – where the LTTE remains a banned organisation.
In August last year, the Thai authorities arrested a group of 20 Sri Lankans in Bangkok – for immigration offences. All were deported to Sri Lanka. Most of them had, by then, parted with approximately Rs. 3 million.
Take the story of “Sukumar” for instance. All of 22-years and hailing from Vavuniya, his family made contact with Uganda Bala’s agent in little-Jaffna or more properly, Wellawatte. His aunt paid an initial Rs. 500,000. The process began in earnest – he then paid a further USD 6,000 bringing his total payment to a little more than USD 10,500. Visa obtained, Sukumar and another youth from Jaffna, were aboard a SriLankan Airlines flight to Thailand – and, they hoped, Australia or Canada.
His new found friend, the youth on the same flight, we call him “Jeya,” paid Bala the sum of US$ 7,000 soon after arrival in Bangkok. A few days later, after the monies were deposited into an account in Colombo, a further US$ 3,000 was handed over.
Weeks went past and the tourist visas issued to the duo – as well as 18 others – had expired. On a short walk-about, the apartment block they were staying in was raided by the Thai Police and Immigration, resulting in the arrest of 20 immigrants. They were all deported to Sri Lanka as over-stayers.
In an astounding turn of events, Sukumar told us that he was now planning on trying his luck again! Uganda Bala had apparently offered him a “discount” now that he had already lost Rs. 1 million. Clearly if authorities in Canada and Australia were aware of the amount of monies changing hands, these immigrants would have a hard time convincing those authorities of their bona fides as “poor, suffering citizens of the North” when in fact they appear to have the financial resources to pay vast sums of money to migrate to a developed country. The Tamil Tigers were defeated in May 2009, and a recent UN report states Tamils need no longer be presumed to be fleeing imminent harm in Sri Lanka. In Canada, in October, the Conservative government tabled new legislation aimed at punishing anyone who smuggles illegal migrants to Canada.
Currently an area of Bangkok, a location known to The Sunday Leader, is home to some 198 would-be immigrants. The figure grows daily while Uganda Bala searches for a suitable vessel on which to transport his ‘clients.’ A favourite haunt of the key personnel in the operation is the “New Madras” restaurant off Silom Road, which is run by a former native of Batticaloa, known as “Sunderam” and his Thai wife. The would-be immigrants, are ‘taken care of’ by another LTTE sympathizer, Seelan. He is in fact a de-facto tour guide, taking the immigrants to internet cafes, banks, ATMs and generally keeping them in high spirits whilst the interminable wait goes on.
This particular case is just one of many instances linking the banned LTTE to human smuggling. Their activities have aroused the interests of government officials in Switzerland, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. Taking advantage of rather lax policing in terms of immigration violation enforcement, the LTTE has created in Thailand a fertile playground on which they continue to make millions of dollars. In the past, the monies collected from relatives of those left behind in Sri Lanka’s former troubled areas, funded the LTTE military machine, which in turn brought even more misery to the people of those Northern and North Eastern parts of Sri Lanka.
Post-war, the reality is almost the same: monies continue to be collected, preying on the misery of a population who have seen the majority of their relatives move abroad. Playing on the hopes and aspirations of the people who dream of better economic prospects, the like of Uganda Bala and his cohorts including other agents in Bangkok like Seeni Thavarajah, continue to live outside of law enforcement agencies and the clutches of Sri Lanka’s intelligence and police agencies.
Recently released figures by the Canadian government goes some way towards an insight as to how worrisome human smuggling has become to some countries; the MV Sun Sea which left Thailand in May 2010 and was intercepted by the Canadians in August 2010, cost the Canadian government US$ 25 million. The bulk of the money was spent by the Canada Border Services Agency, whose bill for this event alone was set at US$ 22 million; the Canadian Police authority, the RCMP, spent US$ 2.1 million and the balance US$ 900,000 was allocated to the Immigration and Refugee Board – who would have had to process the 493 Sri Lankan Tamils who arrived onboard the MV Sun Sea. The Canadian government also allocated an additional US$ 6 million to investigate and disrupt human smuggling networks in South Asia.
Of great concern to Immigration authorities throughout the so-called ‘Western’ world, is the phenomenally large amounts paid by these illegal immigrants, who all claim to suffer various forms of discrimination and victimization at the hands of government agencies in Sri Lanka. The end of the war against terror in Sri Lanka has brought with it a further complication to the tide of asylum seekers who cannot now claim to be running away from the war; however, with a weak international PR and media communications system the Sri Lankan government continues to loose ground in the media war of words and strategies to the LTTE-leaning diaspora overseas, helping the claims of ill-treatment made by illegal immigrants – with or without merit but certainly a useful ally in any application for asylum.
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The MV Sun Sea, carrying 492 would-be Tamil refugee claimants from Sri Lanka, arrived last September in Victoria, B.C.
by Dougals Quan, Postmedia News/MCT
One of the Tamil migrants who arrived in Canada aboard the MV Sun Sea last year worked as a mechanic for the banned Tamil Tigers organization, but does that make him a member? That was the question at the heart of an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing Friday that probed the man’s admissibility to the country and served as the first test of the strength of the government’s security concerns about some of the migrants.
A representative for the Canada Border Services Agency argued that the man’s work and activities amounted to membership in the Tigers — banned in Canada as a terrorist organization — and therefore he should not be allowed to remain in the country.But the migrant’s lawyer said the government’s evidence of his client’s membership in a terrorist organization is thin. Friday’s hearing was the first since the arrival of the Sun Sea last August to probe whether one of its passengers should be removed from the country. Up until now, all the hearings have focused on the issue of whether they should be kept in detention.
The Canada Border Services Agency has so far requested so-called admissibility hearings for about 32 of the Tamil migrants, mostly on the grounds that they pose a security threat because of alleged membership in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, or because of alleged serious criminal pasts.Those Tamils deemed inadmissible are subject to removal orders, effectively quashing any chance they have of proceeding with their refugee claims. The migrant who was the subject of Friday’s admissibility hearing — who can only be identified as “B173” due to a publication ban — testified that he did live for a time in an LTTE-controlled area and worked at a garage run by the LTTE where he fixed buses. He said he also helped a relative repair motorcycles belonging to LTTE members.
The man acknowledged helping the LTTE dig bunkers and once attending a roadside drama performed by LTTE members “depicting the difficulties the public undergo in army-controlled areas.” But under questioning from his lawyer, Eric Purtzki, the man said that he never formally joined the LTTE because he was “afraid to die.” Asked whether he was sympathetic with the Tigers, the man replied: “I had a feeling they were trying to help the Tamil population but I didn’t have the feeling that I should encourage it.” The man said he never trained with them or gave them money.
But Becky Chan, the CBSA representative, said it didn’t matter that the man wasn’t a formal member of the LTTE. He worked as a mechanic for the organization and attended LTTE meetings and celebrations, she said. “His activities furthered the goals of the LTTE.” At one point in her cross-examination of the migrant, Chan attempted to point out discrepancies between the man’s testimony on Friday and statements he gave in prior interviews.
But Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator Marc Tessler stopped her and said she was dealing in “minutiae.” Purtzki countered that his client’s activities didn’t rise to the level of membership in the LTTE and suggested the government was “stretching” the concept of membership.By living in an LTTE-controlled territory, residents are bound to come into contact with the Tigers, he said. There is nothing to show his client has deep inside knowledge of the LTTE, Purtzki said, adding that the LTTE is tightly controlled and characterized by a high degree of organization with members who have specific ranks and roles. The adjudicator reserved decision on the migrant’s admissibility.
The Tamil Tigers were engaged in a lengthy civil war with the Sri Lankan government that ended with the Tigers’ defeat in 2009. The group is considered a terrorist organization and is banned in Canada. The other migrants who are scheduled for admissibility hearings include a man who allegedly appeared in a movie promoting the Tamil Tigers and was paid by the Tamil Tigers to teach karate; a man who allegedly worked for a newspaper with ties to the LTTE; and a man who allegedly transported people and supplies to sites where the LTTE was constructing bunkers.
Sunday marks the six-month anniversary of the Sun Sea’s arrival off the B.C. coast, an event that touched off a nationwide debate about Canada’s immigration and refugee system and promises from the Harper government to crack down on human smuggling operations.Tory cabinet ministers are pushing legislation that would toughen jail terms and fines for those found guilty of human smuggling. The legislation also seeks to deter migrants from using human smugglers by allowing authorities to detain them for up to a year and barring them permanent residence status for five years. Opposition parties have vowed to vote it down.
Of the 492 Tamils who arrived in B.C. last August, 107 remain in detention — 101 men and six women. Federal budget estimates released earlier this week suggested that the MV Sun Sea caseas cost the government more than $25 firstname.lastname@example.org
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“LTTE plans to target VVIPs during Assembly elections in India”
by S. Vijay Kumar in the Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Chennai/article1448097.ece
Central intelligence agencies have communicated specific inputs to the Tamil Nadu police that suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadre had conspired to carry out attacks on VVIPs during forthcoming Assembly elections. Highly placed intelligence sources confirmed to The Hindu on Saturday that the Ministry of Home Affairs had sent alert messages that some LTTE cadre had arrived in Tamil Nadu and were engaged in a training programme at an “unknown location.” They were in the process of procuring weapons and explosive substances to execute their plan.
While claiming that LTTE men in the custody of the Sri Lankan Army had revealed “significant” presence of their cadre at Valasaravakkam in Chennai, the sources said some prominent members of the LTTE’s finance and air wings had sneaked into the State. Members of the outfit’s suicide squad had reached Nagercoil in the guise of refugees accompanying aged or injured Sri Lankan Tamils. Clandestine sailings of the LTTE and frequent arrival of refugees with the help of illegal boat operators had exposed the vulnerability of the Tamil Nadu coast, the sources said. “We received a few alert messages from Central intelligence agencies during the World Classical Tamil Conference held at Coimbatore and the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Chennai recently. Elaborate security arrangements were made and both events went incident-free. We intercepted a couple of clandestine boat operators who organised transport of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees to Australia,” a senior police officer said.
Ruling out the possibility of LTTE cadre regrouping in Tamil Nadu, he said there was information about some “ex-Tigers organising human smuggling (of Sri Lankan Tamils staying in Tamil Nadu as refugees) to Christmas Islands (Australia) or Canada.” The official said Sri Lankan Tamils desirous of going to Canada or Australia were not being given exit visas. “The Government of Sri Lanka wants them to return to their homeland…but the refugees don’t want to go back. We have taken up the issue with the Sri Lanka Deputy High Commissioner. Sri Lankan Tamils staying at Valasaravakkam or Karumandapam should not be mistaken as LTTE cadre.”
Tamil Nadu Director General of Police Letika Saran said there was no presence of LTTE cadre in the State. “We take every alert message seriously…police investigate and go into the finer details of every input. The Coastal Security Group police are in constant touch with ‘village vigilance committees’ and will know of any suspicious activity along the coast.”
Some probable targets of the LTTE, as perceived by the Central intelligence agencies, are the Prime Minister, National Security Advisor and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, among others, the sources said. “As of now there is no specific input indicating any design of VIP security or internal security implications…there are general inputs which are being followed up,” Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) M.S. Jaffar Sait said. MHA reports also indicated that the alleged LTTE training and process of procuring weapons was to have been completed by December 20 last year.