Four Defendants Plead Guilty to All Charges, Including Conspiring to Acquire Anti-aircraft Missiles and Provide Material Support to the Ltte, a Foreign Terrorist Organization
Defendants Were Caught in an FBI Undercover Sting Operation Attempting to Purchase Surface-to-Air Missiles, Missile Launchers, and Hundreds of AK-47 Automatic Rifles
Earlier today, in the midst of jury selection at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, defendants Thiruthanikan Thanigasalam and Sahilal Sabaratnam pled guilty to conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated foreign terrorist organization, and conspiring and attempting to acquire guided anti-aircraft missiles. Yesterday, defendant Sathajhan Sarachandran pled guilty to providing, conspiring to provide, and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE and conspiring and attempting to acquire guided anti-aircraft missiles, and Yogarasa Nadarasa pled guilty to attempting to provide material support to the LTTE and conspiring to do so. The guilty plea proceedings were held before Chief United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.
When sentenced, Thanigasalam, Sabaratnam, and Sarachandran face a statutory sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment and a sentencing guideline range of life. Nadarasa faces a statutory sentence and guideline range of up to 30 years of imprisonment.
On August 19, 2006, the four defendants were arrested on Long Island after three of them engaged in negotiations with an undercover FBI agent to purchase and export ten SA-18 heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles and launchers, 500 AK-47s, and other military equipment for the LTTE. The defendants were acting at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, including Pottu Amman, the LTTE’s chief of intelligence and procurement and the right-hand man to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan. The weapons were to be used by the LTTE to shoot down Kfir aircraft used by the Sri Lankan military.
The LTTE was founded in 1976 and uses illegal methods to raise money, acquire weapons and technology, and publicize its cause of establishing an independent Tamil state in northern Sri Lanka. The LTTE began its armed conflict against the Sri Lankan government in 1983, and utilizes a guerrilla strategy that often includes acts of terrorism. With an army of several thousand combatants, the LTTE has, until recently, controlled most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Over the past 17 years, the LTTE has conducted approximately 200 suicide bombings, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of victims, and carried out numerous political assassinations, including the May 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the 1993 assassination of the President of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa, the July 1999 assassination of Neelan Thiruchelvam, a member of the Sri Lankan parliament, the June 2000 assassination of C.V. Goonaratne, the Sri Lankan Industry Minister, the August 2006 assassination of the Sri Lankan government’s peace secretariat, Ketheshwaran Loganathan, the January 2008 assassination of Sri Lankan Minister for Nation Building, D.M. Dassanayake, and the April 2008 assassination of Sri Lankan Highways Minister, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. Beginning in 2002, the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government operated under a tenuous cease-fire agreement, but that agreement has essentially ended, and since April 2006, thousands of people have been killed in the escalating conflict, including over 300 civilians.
In 1997, the LTTE was designated by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and therefore may not legally raise money or procure equipment or materials in the United States.
“For nearly two decades the LTTE has waged its war of terror at home and abroad, making suicide bombings its trademark,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “With these convictions we have sent a clear message that the LTTE and its supporters cannot use the United States as a source of supply for deadly weapons and technology, and that all terrorists who attempt to do so will be met with the full resources of law enforcement.” Mr. Campbell added that this successful prosecution is the result of a coordinated international effort by law enforcement led by the Newark Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, with assistance provided by more than 20 of the FBI’s Field Offices, including New York City, New Haven, Buffalo, Seattle, Baltimore, Chicago, and San Jose; the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the U.S. Department of State; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Security Program; and British law enforcement authorities.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Greg D. Andres, Marshall L. Miller, Andrew E. Goldsmith, and Jeffrey H. Knox.
SATHAJHAN SARACHANDRAN, also known as “Satha”
SAHILAL SABARATNAM, also known as “Sahil”
THIRUTHANIKAN THANIGASALAM, also known as “Thani”
NADARASA YOGARASA, also known as “Yoga”
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