Indonesian Man Sentenced in Conspiracy to Provide Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization and Money Laundering
Aided Tamil Tiger Terrorists in the Attempted Purchase of Surface to Air Missiles, Night Vision Devices, Machine Guns and State of the Art Firearms
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Erick Wotulo, age 61, a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia, and a retired Indonesian Marine Corps General, today to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and money laundering, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Wotulo will be deported from the United States after serving his sentence in federal prison.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, "Terrorists must not be permitted to use the United States as a source of funding or equipment. We will continue to utilize all possible means to prevent terorrism, including undercover operations targeting people who attempt to obtain munitions in violation of our laws."
“International arms brokers looking to equip terrorist organizations with advanced American weaponry will not be tolerated,” said James A. Dinkins, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Baltimore. “This three-year undercover investigation conducted by ICE, in collaboration with the our federal and local law enforcement partners, highlights the reach and impact of international arms trafficking. ICE will continue to aggressively pursue those who violate U.S. export laws to ensure that U.S. weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."
“Illicit trafficking of military-grade weaponry and equipment empowers subversive groups and exacerbates violent conflicts,” said James R. Ives, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service's Mid-Atlantic Field Office.
“This investigation uncovered trafficking activities which are especially abhorrent given the intended recipient was a designated foreign terrorist organization which would have likely used the materials in furtherance of a deadly campaign. The Defense Criminal Investigative Service remains steadfastly committed to working with law enforcement partners to disrupt trafficking networks that feed arsenals of terrorist enterprises and criminal elements.”
According to the plea agreement, beginning in April 2006 Wotulo conspired with Haji Subandi, Haniffa Bin Osman and Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa 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) operating within Sri Lanka, to be used to fight against Sri Lankan government forces. The conspirators contacted an undercover business located in Maryland about the sale of military weapons. Wotulo and Subandi aided in the acquisition and proposed delivery of military technology to the Tamil Tigers, requesting price quotes, negotiating the purchases, and providing details of ocean routes for the transfer of the arms to the Tamil Tigers. 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.
Wotulo contacted the undercover business on June 5, 2006 and stated that he and his associates were preparing a purchase order for the weapons. Wotulo stated that the chief of the Tamil Tigers requested that he and another conspirator travel to Baltimore to meet with undercover agents. He affirmed the need to provide the undercover agents with a 25% deposit before the weapons purchase could proceed.
Central to the plan to acquire arms and munitions for the Tamil Tigers was the 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 this conduct is reflected in the money laundering charge contained in count three of the superseding indictment.
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.
An additional $452,000 payment was transferred on September 28, 2006 for the arms. On September 29, 2006 Wotulo arrived in Guam. Varatharasa, Wotulo and Osman met with undercover officers in Guam, discussed current and future sales of weapons to the Tamil Tigers, and were arrested.
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 in1997. As such, the Tamil Tigers cannot legally raise money or procure operational equipment in the United States.
Haji Subandi, age 71, a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia, was sentenced to 37 months in prison for the conspiracy, two count of money laundering and attempted exportation of arms and munitions. Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, age 36, a citizen of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 57 months in prison for the conspiracy and attempted arms exportation. Haniffa Bin Osman, age 55, a citizen of the Republic of Singapore, also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and money laundering, and is scheduled to be sentenced in August, 2008.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the investigative work performed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Baltimore City Police Department. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Maryland James G. Warwick, who is prosecuting the case.