Piratheepan Nadarajah and Suresh Sriskandarajah, two alleged operatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated foreign terrorist organization popularly referred to as the Tamil Tigers, will be arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn following their extradition from Canada.
Nadarajah is charged with conspiring and attempting to acquire $1 million worth of anti-aircraft missiles, missile launchers, and other military equipment and conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the LTTE. Sriskandarajah is charged with conspiring to provide material support to the LTTE and dealing in the property of a specially designated terrorist group.1 At the request of the United States, Nadarajah and Sriskandarajah were previously arrested in Canada with a view to extradition, pursuant to warrants requested in the Eastern District of New York.
“As alleged, these two defendants were part of the cycle of sophisticated arms and large sums of money that fueled their terrorist organization. As Tamil Tigers operatives, the defendants were bent on procuring high-powered weaponry and high-tech equipment and designs for the LTTE, an organization that has waged a longstanding war of terror using suicide bombings that often targeted innocent civilians. They would stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even using students to smuggle prohibited items into Sri Lanka,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “Thanks to the combined efforts of our law enforcement partners in the United States and abroad, there is no safe haven for supporters of terrorist groups like the LTTE.”
As detailed in the superseding indictment and other court filings, between July 1, 2006 and August 19, 2006, Nadarajah and several co-conspirators engaged in negotiations with an undercover FBI agent to purchase and export $1 million worth of high-powered weapons and military equipment for the LTTE, including 20 SA-18 heat-seeking, surface-to-air, anti-aircraft missiles; 10 missile launchers; and 500 AK-47s. Nadarajah and his associates attempted to acquire these weapons at the direction of senior LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, including Pottu Amman, then the LTTE’s chief of intelligence and procurement and the top deputy to then-LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan. The anti-aircraft weapons were to be used by the LTTE to shoot down Kfir aircraft used by the Sri Lankan military.
As detailed in the superseding indictment and other court filings, between September 2004 and April 2006, Sriskandarajah and several co-conspirators assisted a principal LTTE procurement officer to research and acquire aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software, and communications equipment. Sriskandarajah used students as couriers to smuggle prohibited items into territory in Sri Lanka then controlled by the LTTE. Additionally, Sriskandarajah helped the LTTE launder its proceeds in the United States and elsewhere.
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, until recently the LTTE controlled most of the northern and eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Over the past 20 years, the LTTE has conducted approximately 200 suicide bombings resulting in the deaths of hundreds of victims, and has 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. In 2009, Sri Lankan government forces defeated the LTTE and reestablished control of the country. Notwithstanding its current exile status, the LTTE remains an active terrorist organization.
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.
“The defendants allegedly set out to provide material support for high-level members of the LTTE, a known terrorist organization responsible for civilian massacres and other heinous crimes, by attempting to use our country and its resources as a gateway for criminal behavior. But after more than six years of fighting their extradition to the United States, they will finally face the justice they couldn’t evade. This serves as a fine example of how our law enforcement partners both here and around the world are successfully combining their efforts against terrorists and terrorists groups alike,” stated Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos.
“The subjects in this case attempted to exploit perceived vulnerabilities in the United States to provide material support to a violent terrorist organization. Although their immediate goal was not to do harm to the United States, political motivations can and do quickly change, and it’s important that law enforcement be steadfast in its pursuit of terrorism regardless of ideology,” stated Special Agent in Charge Ward.
“Our successful partnership with the FBI through the New York JTTF means that members of the NYPD work with their colleagues to intercept suspected terrorists before they strike,” stated Commissioner Kelly.
If convicted of all charges, Nadarajah faces a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison, and Sriskandarajah faces a maximum sentence of 25 years of imprisonment.