Thulasitharan Santhirarajah, LTTE arms procurer, sought deal, but…

Sean Parnell, in The Australian, 31 July 2012, where the title is “AFP rejected refugee offer to name names”

AN accused backer of Tamil terrorists held in custody in Melbourne for the past four years tried to strike a deal with US and Australian authorities in a desperate bid to avoid being returned to Sri Lanka.The former head of the Melbourne International College, Thulasitharan Santhirarajah, was arrested in 2008 after a series of raids by the AFP, acting on behalf of the FBI.

The Australian yesterday revealed Attorney-General Nicola Roxon in February signed off on the extradition of Santhirarajah, who is accused of providing support to the now-vanquished Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. At the time of his arrest, Mr Santhirarajah, now 38, was living in Melbourne with his wife — an ethnic Tamil previously granted refugee status — and their son. He had moved to Australia on a business visa and was granted a bridging visa while he sought permanent residency.

He fears he will be deported and face persecution or physical harm, a scenario his wife and more than 1000 petitioners have raised with the government.

Documents filed by Mr Santhirarajah’s lawyers as part of a Federal Court challenge reveal he had engaged a US attorney to seek a “negotiated outcome” with prosecutors, but ran out of money to pay him. The documents show Mr Santhirarajah offered to give information to the AFP, who showed little interest, and ended up giving an extraordinary statement to the government, which failed to dissuade Ms Roxon from approving his extradition earlier this year. His lawyers say Mr Santhirarajah’s statement “makes it clear he does not deny involvement in the events which are the subject of the charges”.

Evidence presented in US courts details how backers of the Tamil Tigers arranged to buy some 28 tonnes of US-made weapons and ammunition in 2006 and provided $US700,000 to undercover FBI officers. The sting led to five people being convicted of terrorism-related charges and given jail sentences ranging from 57 months for Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa of Sri Lanka to 37 months for Haniffa Bin Osman of Singapore. Mr Santhirarajah’s lawyers have declined to comment on reports he owned a hotel in Singapore, where he came into contact with Osman, but their client has named names in his statement to the government. “However, he does explain . . . who was really in control — namely, ‘Alex’, the LTTE business people and the co-accused Varatharasa,” his lawyers said in a Federal Court statement.

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