Leader of American Branch of Sri Lankan Terrorist Group Arrested and Charged with Providing Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization
Arrest is the Latest in Ongoing Investigation of Terrorist Group's Reliance On Individuals in the United States as a Major Source for Money, Arms, and Military Technology
BROOKLYN, NY – A complaint was unsealed this morning in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn charging a senior U.S. representative of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers), a designated foreign terrorist organization since 1997, with material support of a foreign terrorist organization. The defendant, KARUNAKARAN KANDASAMY, also known as “KARUNA,” was arrested in Queens, New York, and is scheduled to have his initial appearance this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York. The charge in the complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, KARUNA faces a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.
“As alleged in the complaint, for years the LTTE has covertly operated within the United States drawing on America’s financial resources and technological advances to further its war of terror in Sri Lanka and elsewhere,” stated United States Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf. “We refuse to allow this to continue.” Ms. Mauskopf added that the investigation is continuing.
Mark J. Mershon, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, stated, “Financial backing, assistance with logistics, and other forms of material support have a direct bearing on the viability of a terrorist organization’s lethal objectives. Karuna hasn’t merely supported the Tamil Tigers’ cause, he orchestrated U.S. support. We can no sooner allow terrorists to raise funds here than we would allow them to carry out acts of terrorism here.”
The government’s investigation was conducted by the New York and Newark Divisions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), with assistance provided by more than 20 of the FBI’s Field Offices, including New Haven, CT, Buffalo, NY, Seattle, WA, Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, San Jose, CA, and Los Angeles, CA; the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the U.S. Department of State; and several foreign governments.
According to the complaint, the LTTE was founded in 1976 and relies on terrorism, including suicide bombings and political assassinations, to achieve its objective of establishing an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka. The group’s elite Black Tiger squad has conducted hundreds of suicide attacks and several assassinations, including the May 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the 1993 assassination of the President of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa. The complaint charges that beginning in 2002, the LTTE and Sri Lankan government operated under a tenuous cease-fire agreement. That agreement has essentially ended, and more than 4,000 people have been killed in the past 15 months in the escalating conflict.
KARUNA’s Material Support
According to the complaint, the LTTE relies on sympathetic Tamil expatriates residing in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and several other countries to raise and launder money; smuggle arms, explosives, equipment, and technology into LTTE-controlled territory; obtain intelligence about the Sri Lankan government; and spread propaganda. To coordinate these activities, the LTTE has established “branches” in at least 12 countries, including the United States.
The complaint alleges that KARUNA is the director of the American branch of the LTTE, which is located in Queens, New York, and operates through a front organization called the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (the “WTCC”). KARUNA oversees and directs the LTTE’s activities in the United States, including fundraising. In the summer and fall of 2004, for example, the LTTE allegedly undertook a major worldwide campaign to raise money for its planned offensive against the Sri Lankan government in late 2005. In support of this planned offensive, KARUNA held fundraising events in November and December 2004 at a church and a public high school in Queens, New York, and a school in South Brunswick, New Jersey. Hundreds attended.
According to the complaint, KARUNA also was responsible for arranging meetings in LTTE-controlled territory in Sri Lanka between LTTE leaders and prominent LTTE supporters from the United States. These supporters typically have backgrounds in engineering, technology, weaponry, medicine, and other scientific fields. KARUNA and his subordinates also assisted LTTE intelligence agents in researching military technology.
Related LTTE Prosecutions in the Eastern District of New York
Eleven defendants were previously indicted in the Eastern District of New York on charges relating to the material support of the LTTE. One indictment, United States v. Sathajhan Sarachandran, et al., charges five individuals with attempting to purchase several dozen surface-to-air missiles and other military arms and equipment from an undercover FBI agent in Queens, New York. The second indictment, United States v.Thavarajah Pratheepan et al., charges the defendants with participating a wide-ranging conspiracy to provide material support to the LTTE through the procurement of military arms and technology, attempting to bribe purported U.S. State Department officials to remove the LTTE from the foreign terrorist organization list and to sell classified intelligence concerning the LTTE, fundraising, and the LTTE’s covert payment of a U.S. Congressman’s trip to LTTE-controlled territory.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Knox, Robert M. Radick, and Gurbir Grewal.
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