Four Plead Guilty to Conspiring to Provide Material Support to the Ltte, a Foreign Terrorist Organization
DEFENDANTS INCLUDE THE LEADER OF THE LTTE IN THE UNITED STATES AND ONE OF THE LTTE'S SENIOR ARMS PROCUREMENT AGENTS
Defendants’ Wide-Ranging Support of the LTTE Included the Purchase of Arms and Explosives, Attempted Bribery of U.S. State Department Officials, Fundraising, and Covertly Financing a U.S. Congressman’s Trip to Sri Lanka
Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, defendants Karunakaran Kandasamy, Pratheepan Thavaraja, Murugesu Vinayagamoorthy, and Vijayshanthar Patpanathan pled guilty to, among other crimes, conspiring to provide material support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated foreign terrorist organization. The guilty plea proceedings were held before Chief United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie. Kandasamy and Pratheepan face a 20-year maximum statutory sentence. Vinayagamoorthy and Patpanathan face a 15-year maximum statutory sentence.
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 had, until the last several months, controlled most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Over the past 17 years, the LTTE has conducted over 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 ended, and between April 2006 and May 2009, tens of thousands of people were killed in the escalating conflict. In May 2009, after 25 years of armed conflict, the current LTTE leadership was defeated by the Sri Lankan military, resulting in the death of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and several other senior LTTE officials.
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 and smuggle arms, explosives, equipment, and technology into LTTE-controlled territory. To coordinate these activities, the LTTE established “branches” in at least 12 countries, including the United States. Defendant Kandasamy was the director of the American branch of the LTTE, which operated through charitable front organizations, including the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (“TRO”). As the director of the American branch, Kandasamy oversaw and directed the LTTE’s various activities in the United States, including raising millions of dollars for the LTTE and laundering it through the TRO. Defendant Vijayshanthar Patpanathan assisted Kandasamy and others in these fundraising and money laundering activities.
Defendant Pratheepan Thavaraja was a senior procurement agent for the LTTE, involved in the purchase of improvised explosive devices, missiles, machine guns, artillery, radar, and other equipment and technology from countries around the world, including the United States. A single spreadsheet of “priority” items to purchase, which was found in Pratheepan’s laptop computer, totaled $20 million in arms and equipment. It included, among other things, six “25mm Anti Aircraft Gun[s]” at $160,000 each, six “30 mm Twin Barrel Mounted Naval Gun[s] Type 69 (with base)” at $30,000 each, thousands of automatic rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, grenade launchers, 50 tons of C4 explosive, five tons of “Phlegmatized RDX” explosive, 50 tons of “TNT - based on Chinese specification,” and 50 tons of Tritonal explosive. Pratheepan and defendant Murugesu Vinayagamoorthy were also involved in the attempted bribery of purported U.S. State Department officials to remove the LTTE from the list of designated foreign terrorist organizations. In addition, Vinayagamoorthy participated in laundering LTTE money through a Swiss bank account to covertly fund a U.S. Congressman’s trip to LTTE-controlled territory in Sri Lanka.
“Just weeks after the LTTE’s leaders in Sri Lanka were defeated in that country, the leader of the LTTE in the United States and other LTTE supporters have been brought to justice,” said United States Attorney Campbell. “The defendants were convicted for their involvement in efforts to raise millions of dollars and acquire arms and technology for use by the LTTE.” Mr. Campbell added that this successful prosecution is the result of a coordinated international effort by law enforcement led by the Newark and New York Divisions 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 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 and Indonesian law enforcement authorities.
The government’s LTTE cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey H. Knox, Andrew E. Goldsmith, Greg D. Andres, and Marshall L. Miller
KARUNAKARAN KANDASAMY, also known as “Karuna”
PRATHEEPAN THAVARAJA, also known as “Raja Pratheepan,” “Thambi Sampras,” and “Steeban”
MURUGESU VINAYAGAMOORTHY, also known as “Dr. Moorthy” and “Vinayagamoorthy Murugesu”
VIJAYSHANTHAR PATPANATHAN, also known as “Chandru”
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