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Funding terror: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and their Criminal Activities in Canada and the Western World
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and related Tamil insurgents are engaged in organized criminal activities. These began in Sri Lanka and have spread to Western Europe, North America and Australia - wherever Tamil refugees have landed. With only two decades, this initially obscure gang has emerged as one of the world's most feared terrorist organizations. They have assassinated heads of state and set up a global crime network to fund their war for control of northern and eastern Sri Lanka.
Mackenzie Institute P.O. Box 338, Adelaide Station Toronto, Ontario M5C-2J4
March 17, 2000 / COMMENTARY No. 77

Funding terror: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and their Criminal Activities in Canada and the Western World

The following report is prepared by the Mackenzie Institute, a non-profit organization based in Canada. Hard copies of the article can be obtained from The Mackenzie Institute Author is not responsible for the contents of this page. If you have any questions please contact The Mackenzie Institute

Mackenzie Institute P.O. Box 338, Adelaide Station Toronto, Ontario M5C-2J4


The intimate relationship between terrorism and criminality is not new. Criminal endeavours have often provided cash for political struggles, or have been used as a weapon to attack a social order. Secret societies and underground terrorist networks, initially founded to achieve political or social objectives, are easily redirected towards purely criminal activities. They can easily transpose their organizational structures, methods of operation and ruthlessness towards new objectives. The more commonly recognized groups of this nature include the Triads and Tongs, as well as the Sicilian Mafia. These one- time insurgents now involve themselves in sexual slavery, narcotics and systemic extortion, to name a few of their activities.

Now, standing alongside these other networks, is a relatively new contender, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). With only two decades, this initially obscure gang has emerged as one of the world's most feared terrorist organizations. They have assassinated heads of state and set up a global crime network to fund their war for control of northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

The demand for resources to maintain such a protracted conflict has never been met in LTTE controlled areas. From the earliest days of their struggle in the 1980s, the organization recognized that it would have to go abroad. Squeezing the local Tamil economy would never meet the LTTE's needs.

The Tigers spun a massive web. It stretched from their secured territories in northern Sri Lanka into India, where ethno-religious and linguistic ties facilitated operations. Exploitation of Tamil refugees by the LTTE and its supporters allowed profitable operations to be established in Europe and North America (Canada, particularly). The most profitable activities for the Tamils have been heroin trafficking and the extortion of Tamils living in India and the Western world.

Both these cash-gathering tactics are deeply rooted in the sub- culture of the LTTE's early leadership. Analysis of these activities reveals a definite pattern. First, an emerging insurgency modified existing underground activities to suit their new needs. Then, these activities increased in areas under LTTE control or influence. Finally, these operations spread into other countries, usually in the West, where numbers of Tamil refugees and expatriates can be found. Because the LTTE-sponsored criminal elements are in Canada, the issue is a salient one for Canadians. Background

The LTTE is part of a much larger picture, drawn from the geopolitics of a troubled region. The background includes increasingly fanatical ethnic politics in a multi-cultural emerging democracy. The picture is a study in crimson - over 50,000 lives have been lost in the LTTE's insurrection (1).

Sri Lanka is an island country located off the southeastern coast of India. Some older maps may still refer to it as Ceylon. At 64,000 square kilometres, it is the size of Nova Scotia and PEI combined. Although the currernt conflict is sometimes characterised as one of Sinhalese versus Tamils, the situation is far more complex.

Sri Lanka contains approximately 18,000,000 people. The Sinhalese are the largest group on the island, making up about 72% of the population (2). The Sinhalese are Buddhists and can trace their presence on the island for 2,500 years. Sri Lankan Tamils comprise 10% of the population and are predominantly Hindu. Most Tamils still reside in the north and eastern portions of the island, where their ancestors arrived from India about 1,000 years ago. Another 10% of the population is made up of a second group of Tamils descended from Indian plantation labourers brought to the island by the British in the 19th century. The remainder of the population includes small pockets of Muslims and Europeans.

Independence was granted by Britain to the island in 1948. The transition was exceptionally peaceful, especially when compared to that of India and Pakistan. The new country accepted a British Parliamentary form of government for several decades. India adopted a more federal system of government, primarily to help unify its diverse peoples. Sri- Lanka's more relaxed system was sometimes seen in Delhi as a dangerous example.

Ethnic conflict is a modern phenomenon in Sri Lanka, although current versions of history attempt to depict the Tamils and Sinhalese as having been hostile for centuries. In truth, cooperation and mutual tolerance was the norm. Tamils sometimes ruled Sinhalese kingdoms and served in the highest posts of their militaries (3). The first serious instances of inter-communal conflict occurred between 1956 and 1958. These could be largely characterised as Sinhalese attacks on Tamils. The violence had resulted from increased Sinhalese belligerence towards the Tamil minority. There were efforts to reduce the status of the Tamil languge (which remains an official languge along with Sinhala). Some Sinhalese attempted to make Buddhism the country's official religion and to impose restrictive quotas for higher education and the civil service on the Tamils.

The next major outbreak of violence was in 1971. A Maoist party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) attempted to seize control of the island. The JVP's name translates as the People's Liberation Front. They launched simultaneous attacks on police stations, military posts and strategic government facilities. Members of the JVP tended to be over- educated and under-employed rural youths from the hilly interior of the island. The same combination of education and unemployment fostered the Maoist Shining Path guerillas in Peru and is a prime factor in Islamic Fundamentalist violence in the Middle East and North Africa. The Sri Lankan security apparatus stretched their resources to the absolute limit before the JVP insurrection was put down. Estimates vary as to the loss of life in the short civil war, but tens of thousands of people were killed.

In the mid to late 1970s, the Tamils became restive and several new groups of insurgents appeared - including the LTTE. Violence increased exponentially, especially in the Jaffna area of northern Sri Lanka. Much of this involved clashes between the emerging Tamil guerrilla forces. The LTTE remained concentrated in the Jaffna Peninsula until the Sri Lankan army retook it in November 1995. Throughout their insurgency, thousands of troops repeatedly failed to dislodge the Tamil Tigers and enter their sanctuaries. Casualties were heavy among Sri Lankan police and military units, who in turn sometimes vented their frustrations on Tamil civilians. All sides were known to massacre civilians during the 1980s, but the LTTE were the most notorious butchers. They slaughtered Sinhalese, Muslims, and Tamils from both the ancient and more recent communities.

India supported the Tamil insurgents, until 1987 when they reversed their policies and helped broker a peace accord between the Sri Lankan government and the guerrillas. However, the LTTE refused to accept it. India had reserved the role of guarantor in the Accord, which resulted in the deployment of Indian soldiers into LTTE areas. The Indian attempt to break the battle-hardened LTTE failed disastrously.

The Peace Accord gave the JVP an excuse to renew its presence in Sinhalese regions of the country. Their violent revival was characterized by assassinations and terror attacks. While the Indian Army engaged the LTTE in the north, almost all of Sri Lanka's security forces were used against the JVP. The counter-terror campaign quickly degraded into a series of Army and police death squads. By 1989, the JVP was again fully suppressed.

The Sri Lankan success against the JVP contrasted with the Indian Army's failures. Tamil separatist loathed the Indians, while many other Sri Lankans disliked India for supporting the Tamils and then imposing itself as a ``peacekeeping'' force. In 1989, the JVP was again fully suppressed.

The Sri Lankan success against the JVP contrasted with the Indian Army's failures. Tamil separatists loathed the Indians, while many other Sri Lankans disliked India for supporting the Tamils and then imposing itself as a ``peacekeeping'' force. In 1989, the Indian army began to withdraw from the country. Sri Lanka returned to its long-running civil war.

As fighting in the north resumed, the LTTE added new tactics to its repertoire. They made notable use of suicide bombers. These were often women who strapped explosives to their bodies to dramatically eliminate political figures. They also demonstrated the power of the organization. These suicide bombers killed Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. They also killed Sri Lanka's President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993 and the United National Party's presidential candidate (along with 51 other people) at an election rally in 1994.

Current estimates of the size of the LTTE and the extent of its popular support are difficult to gauge. Before the late 1995 Army offensive that captured Jaffna, they may have had between 4,000 and 15,000 fighters (4). With the capture of the city in late 1995, the LTTE suffered very heavy casualties and lost their primary sanctuary. This, however, is unlikely to end the insurgency. Nor should anyone expect the Tamil's criminal enterprises to vanish. A Record of Extortion.

Prior to the insurgencies of 1970s, Sri Lanka had an active criminal underworld. It trafficked in black market goods and ran extortion and protection rackets. It was a tough, often brutal subculture. It is also where the LTTE had its roots.

The leader of the Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, dropped out of school at sixteen. He began to associate with Tamil ``activist gangs'' - participating in one occasion in a political kidnapping. Eventually he formed his own gang, the New Tamil Tigers in 1972. He personally assassinated a Tamil politician in 1973. The politician was a member of a largely Sinhalese political party. The deed brought considerable power and prestige to Prabhakaran, who advertised his deed by putting up posters throughout Jaffna to claim responsibility. Prabhakaran then consolidated complete control over the gang and renamed it the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (5).

The establishment of a reputation by Prabhakaran in order to lead a gang follows the exact path of a collector of Kappan (protection money) in the Sri Lankan underworld (6). One must establish a reputation for sudden and decisive violence at the slightest provocation. A prior criminal record is also necessary - Prabhakaran had one before 1972. Kappan collectors had the underworld's most rewarding role. The Tigers ran protection rackets and decided which business could operate in their ``territory'', while brutally enforcing their rule over residents and potential rivals alike.

Extorting civilians (or ``taxation'') is a traditional source of income for the Tigers in their strongholds. Most extortion revenues came from business, who are taxed according to their apparent success (7). Other sources indicate that families are forced to pay the LTTE 10,000 Rupees (about $280 Canadian) and provide one family member for the ``civil defence force'' (8). The same reports indicate that males over 25 can leave once they pay 10,000 Rupees for an exit visa and must find another man to stand surety for them. If a man with a temporary visa fails to return, the surety ``vanishes into the prison bunkers''. Some residents in LTTE controlled territories face heavier demands for money if they have well- off relatives living abroad.

Individuals and families who own more than one house may have some of their property confiscated by the LTTE. Sometimes, these residences go to families who have been displaced by the fighting. Families that leave areas controlled by the insurgents are forbidden to sell their property or give it away. Instead, the Tigers take the property. Civilians who return to LTTE controlled areas face increased extortion demands - as the Tigers believe that they have saved a great deal of money.

The long occupation of the Jaffna peninsula gave the LTTE another source of revenue. They collect a percentage of the worth of goods smuggled into the region.

What these examples demonstrate is the control the LTTE has over who can move out of their territories, especially those who would seek refugee status elsewhere. It seems reasonable to infer that loyalty to the Tigers and their cause are necessary to gain permission to leave. One could also assume that refugees are expected to continue to support the cause from abroad, especially as qualifications for LTTE exit visas may include having relatives within their controlled areas.

These inferences are substantiated by the experiences of Tamil refugees in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Canada.

In Germany, ten LTTE members were caught extorting 50 Deutsche Marks per month from Tamil families (about $53 Canadian). They threatened to harm relatives who were still living in Sri Lanka if the money was not forthcoming. The ring grossed 200,000 DM per month (9). The British Refugee Council also reported on extortion in the Tamil Community. They indicated that Tamil refugees in Germany and other European nations had to pay $60 a month (10).

Since 1977, France has been a preferred destination for Tamil refugees. Indeed, the Tigers may have deliberately sent numbers of people there in order to work and be taxed for the LTTE (11). Tamils were involved in several lucrative operations: one social security fraud was worth 2,000,000 Francs (about $560,000 Canadian). Individuals filed claims with numerous townships for benefits and earned incomes on top of the social security payments. An individual could acquire over 500 Francs a day with this scheme (12).

Canada also hosts extortionists who draw funding for the Tigers. Fear of the Tiger is clearly evident within portions of the Tamil community. Those with relatives who still live in LTTE controlled territories are approached for money, and may have their relatives threatened if they do not pay. Others have managed to stay clear of the extortionists - often by moving several times. However, to avoid being brutally harassed, mail to and from Jaffna is routed through several countries. The LTTE apparently monitors mail from overseas and passes on home addresses to their agents working abroad (13).

Five Tamil refugee claimants who entered Canada as ``boat people'' from Germany were later arrested for beating another young Tamil man. He had not paid an assessment of $2,500 (14). Many Tamils who arrive in Canada settle in the Toronto area. In 1991, reports were circulating of an order to raise $200,000 to bolster the LTTE's ``war fund'' (15). According to police, Toronto area members of the LTTE met in 1993 to discuss strategies for increasing the amounts extorted from area businesses and individuals. The level of violence in Sri Lanka had escalated and the Tigers needed more funds. Moreover, the Indian government had just captured a boat carrying $1 million in arms of the Tamils, killing a top LTTE leader in the process.

The new Toronto-area levies would demand that Tamil businessmen turn over 20% of their profits. Lists of profitable businesses were drawn up. That, Metro Toronto Police were aware of the scope of the LTTE's plans is a telling indicator of the threat they pose on any concentration of Tamil expatriates. Similar extortion networks operate elsewhere, including in India where 210,000 Sri Lankan Tamils now live (16).

Demands for money from a Tamil who lives abroad are considerably higher than from a Jaffna resident. This creates an unusual situation for insurgents, in that there is a definite incentive to send civilians abroad. Incidentally, after years of war, many Jaffna families depended on financial contributions from relatives who fled Sri Lanka. The lack of industry, the LTTE's war efforts and the government embargo are responsible for the establishment of this ``money order economy'' (17). Heroin and the Tamil Tigers.

Smuggling has a long tradition within both the Jaffna area and the Hindu caste which provided the early leadership of the LTTE. The port city of Velvettiturai in the Jaffna region was the most active centre for operations of this sort. The common ties of language, culture and religion between Sri Lankan Tamils and those of the nearby Indian state of Tamil Nadu encouraged the smugglers. Later, these ties nourished the insurgents.

Community ties play an important role in Tamil social life. Details in dress, accent and work help identify an individual's origins. Criminal activities are also organised according to these ties, as well as one's Hindu caste. Traditionally, it was the ``fisherman'' caste that smuggled between Sri Lanka and India. Prabhakaran is a member of this caste and was born in Velvettiturai. Another one of the more notorious LTTE leaders, ``Kuttimani'', had been an active smuggler before the formation of the insurgency (18).

Smugglers usually carried alcohol, tobacco, films and jewellery. By 1970 authorities were finding a political dimension in the smuggling. Links between Tamil nationalists in India and Sri Lanka were noticed and loads now included printed material and films espousing Tamil nationalism. by 1973, the smugglers were also carrying weapons and detonators (19).

By the late 1970s, small quantities of heroin were being found in the cargoes of the fishing boats. Little of the narcotics were intended for use in Sri Lanka; rather the smugglers were part of a route from Madras to Europe (20).

These ties between Indian and Sri Lankan Tamils were incorporated into India's semi-clandestine foreign policies of the 1980s. For a number of years, India provided training, safe havens, money and weaponry for the LTTE. Boats, often captained by known smugglers, carried trained fighters and arms to Sri Lanka. This is still an active supply in for the LTTE. The objective may have been to destablise Sri Lanka, or force a federal system on the Island. (Sri Lanka, unlike India, retained the more popular British style of government). Possibly, India's aim was to incorporate the Sri Lanka Tamils with India. The Indian government and press expressed vociferous concerns about the US Navy establishing a major base at Trincomalee in Sri Lanka (21). The US navy was contemplating no such thing.

Relations between the LTTE and the Indian government soured in 1987. India had brokered a peace plan and forced it on both the Sri Lankan government and the insurgents. After the LTTE refused to accept the plan, an Indian ``Peacekeeping'' force was dispatched to destroy the Tigers. Prabhakaran never forgave Rajiv Gandhi for this. A Tamil-Nadu ``Smuggler/warload'' arranged part of the voyage of the female LTTE assassin who killed Gandhi in a suicide attack (22).

The LTTE's reliance on heroin smuggling began in the early 1980s. In 1979, the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and the Fundamentalist revolution in Iran disrupted the opium smuggling routes used by many Pakistani-based drug lords. In response, the Pakistanis began to refine their own heroin (more easily transported than opium) and sought to develop new routes (23). The Pakistani initially tried directly shipping their products to Europe and North America but western authorities quickly caught on. New smuggling routes developed. These went through India and put Pakistani heroin traffickers into contact with Tamil insurgents in southern India.

Before the Pakistani suppliers connected with the Tamils, the major source of heroin on Sri Lanka were Western tourists who brought small amounts for personal use. Between 1984 and 1985, heroin related offences in Sri Lanka rose ten-fold. By 1993 there were an estimated 50,000 heroin addicts on the island (24). Sri Lanka prescribes the death sentence or life imprisonment for smuggling more than 2 grams of heroin. This has done nothing to deter the Tigers. The Island's police have little success in combating the heroin flow and believe they intercept only about 1% of the drugs (25).

Tamil terrorists who were involved in international drug trafficking were first arrested in September, 1984 in Rome. A vehicle carrying several Italians and a Tamil was stopped and searched, yielding 100 grams of heroin. follow-up investigations resulted in the arrest of another 30 Tamils and the discovery of a massive Sri-Lankan Tamil network. Many of these were LTTE members. In a separate investigation, the Italians arrested another 174 Tamils. Two claimed to be leaders and demanded ``special treatment'' as they were ``political prisoners and revolutionary fighters''. Several others, being of lower ranks, had their to tongues cut out by their superiors to prevent them from talking to authorities (26).

Later arrests led to the discovery that heroin was being mailed to Italy from Bombay. By 1988, Italian police had broken up four separate rings of Tamil heroin smugglers. All were using some of the profits to fund the insurgency. The Swiss also made numerous arrests. In 1984, one fifth of the heroin seized in the country was found on Tamil refugees. This led to Swiss reference to ``The Tamil Connection'' in discussing heroin issues.

Eastern European authorities were arresting Tamil drug-runners in the mid-1980s, and uncovering evidence of a trafficking route through the Soviet Union in the process. Arrests in Warsaw revealed that the traffickers were under the impression the route was safe from Polish authorities because the narcotics were intended for Western Europe (27). Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Tamils were able to route heroin and refugees through the Warsaw Pact and into the west. It was not unusual for the Soviet to promote instability within Western countries, and it would seem they understood the true nature of the LTTE.

Many of these operations took place while the LTTE and other Sri- Lankan Tamil insurgents were being trained, protected, armed and handsomely funded by India.

The Tigers were not just running heroin into Europe. Traditionally, there are three major centres for heroin distribution in Canada. Vancouver is supplied from Southeast Asian sources (the Golden Triangle of Laos, Burma and Thailand). Toronto is supplied by Southwestern Asian sources- the Golden Crescent of Afghistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. Montreal receives supplies from both areas. Heroin from the Golden Crescent often passes through Tamil hands.

From 1985 until the early 1990s, the RCP's annual National Drug Intelligence Estimate indicated that heroin from Southwestern Asia supplied between 20 and 40% of the Canadian market. This estimate rose to 65% for 1990.

Narcotics's traffickers in Canada tend to be organised along ethnic lines. Sri Lankan trafficking networks received a brief mention in the RCMP 1991 Drug Estimate. One major centre for Tamil operations may be Montreal. The city has a $1 Billion narcotics market, part of which is controlled by Sri Lankans who send some of the profits to the LTTE (28).

The extent of the LTTE's reliance on narcotics trafficking can be gauged from indicator. By mid-1985, over 200 Tamil drug runners had been arrested around the world. Hardly any had been known to be involved in drugs only a few years before. About 134 kilos of heroin had been seized form these traffickers by early 1984. One Western police official estimated that this only accounted for 7-10% of the total volume of traffic (29). Soon, the Tamils were moving over 1,000 kilos a year, and much of the profit was going to the LTTE. Canadian, French and West German police captured some 200 Tamil couriers in a two year period ending in 1987 (30).

Today, heroin trafficking is still a major source of funds for the LTTE. Heroin users in Europe and North America are subsidising a savage guerrilla war, halfway across the world (31). Trafficking in Refugees

Another source of funds for Sri Lankan insurgents comes from smuggling human cargoes into Europe and Canada. In the early days of the insurgency, a group of eight Tamils might pay a basic fee of $500 to be taken out of Sri Lanka (in addition to their exist visas) (32). The rates may have increased since then. The insurgents often offer to locate Tamil refugees in a safe country, and even to find employment for them. More often than not, those who accept the offer were stranded or arrested in an unfamiliar country.

In 1986, 155 Tamils were smuggled into Canadian waters from West Germany. Once in Canadian waters, they were set adrift in two lifeboats. On landing, Canadian authorities took them into custody. Shortly afterwards, a police station in Hamburg was firebombed, coincidentally destroying the paperwork generated on the Tamils while they were in Germany (33). Canadian police and immigration authorities received a number of different stories from the Tamils as to how they got there. It soon became apparent that the Tamils feared retaliation if they disclosed too many details about those who arranged their voyage. A fear of the LTTE was also readily apparent.

Several other mass shipment of Tamil boat people were undertaken in 1986. One lift of 250 people originated in Western Germany, another of 700 Tamils from Turkey. An attempt to bring in 269 Tamil refugees from West Germany to Canada was foiled in 1988. The Tamils paid between $1,700 and 2,900 for the trip from Hamburg to Halifax (34). Many of them had arrived in West Germany after passing through India, the Soviet Union and East Germany - a telling odyssey in the Cold War Years.

In late 1994, a strong connection was made in Holland between heroin smuggling and refugee smuggling. An investigation of a narcotics ring revealed that they had smuggled over 200 Tamils into the Netherlands, via Russia. Once on Dutch soil, the smugglers confiscated the false documentation used by the refugees, who then all claimed asylum (35).

The Tamil Tigers' narcotics and refugee smuggling operations have given the group experience in forging travel documents and identification papers. Many Tamils have entered Europe by using fake documentation. French authorities have found Tamil-run offices solely dedicated to the production of fake visas and IDs (36). Experiences with Tamil refugees and smugglers indicate that passports and visas are usually professionally doctored or forged. Upon arrival at their destination, the travellers give up these papers which are then doctored for the next user.

Sophisticated forgery operations have been detected in Canada. A recent series of arrests in Toronto hinted that a similar system of faked refugee documents exists to bring Tamils into the country (37). Valid passports were purchased from Canadian Tamils for about $200. These were then fitted with new photographs and personal information, which had been provided by co-smugglers in India from their new clients. The doctored passports would be couriered out of Canada and given to the new users, to be used to enter Canada. Upon arrival, the passports would be turned over to be reused.

Another passport operation was run out of 15 forgery shops in southern Ontario (38). One forger who was involved in this net work was a convicted Tamil gunman. He had participated in a machine gun attack on a Sri Lankan mayor.

Not just passports and travel documents are being forged. Tamil gangs have been involved in large-scale credit card fraud schemes at gas stations in London, England. The operators netted over $525,000 (39). Similar scams were detected in the Toronto area in 1993. These involved forged credit cards or ones that had been stolen from post offices and mail boxes (40). The Tamils have also engaged in counterfeiting to support their insurgency. Counterfeit US and Sri Lankan currency has been detected in several European countries and Australia (41).

As in LTTE strongholds in Sri Lanka, activists here operate without fear of the law. Disputes and scores are settled with weapons and in a brutal fashion, designed to also intimidate members of the wider Tamil community. Over the past several years, street fights, drive-by shootings and beatings have become common within Canada. A dramatic example of this sort of mentality was evidenced in 1991. A Tamil drug trafficker (and refugee) while serving a ten year sentence at Collins Bay penitentiary plotted an escape. The plan involved the use of a .50 calibre machine gun and two helicopters. Mercenaries were hired to shoot guards from one helicopter, while the second would pick up a group of prisoners. Fortunately, this particular plot was discovered before its execution.

Another example of this form of behaviour comes from the kidnapping of a 16 year old Tamil girl this past summer. Her abductor, a considerably older Tamil, wanted to marry her. The most alarming aspect of this crime was the meticulous planning involved. A windowless van was rented, several other males assisted the abductor, and the victim was shuttled from one safe-house to another. The abduction was more like the kidnapping of a political figure than an attempt to pressure a teenager into marriage. Conclusions.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and related Tamil insurgents are engaged in organized criminal activities. These began in Sri Lanka and have spread to Western Europe, North America and Australia - wherever Tamil refugees have landed.

While crime in a newly arrived migrant community is not unknown, normally the victims of the criminals are members of their own community. In this case, the experiences of Tamil refugees began with extortion; by paying for exit visas to leave insurgent-controlled areas. Many have paid for the insurgents to bring them to a new country, only to have the extortion resume - at an even more costly level. Beyond the Tamil community, the wider polity has been victimised by heroin smuggling, credit card fraud, counterfeiting, and fraudulent social welfare claims. The profits from these operations have supported a number of criminal gangs. These are unwelcome under any circumstances. However, some of the profits of these crimes have also gone to sustain a prolonged and cruel conflict - which makes them even more unwelcome.

In the past, Chinese Triads and the Sicilian Mafia have used some of the same techniques as the Tamils to undertake their insurgencies. The Triads have outlasted China's Manchu rulers, and the Mafia has continued long after the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies vanished. The criminal enterprises of the LTTE can be expected to survive the end of the insurgency. Moreover, the LTTE is unusual in that the roots of its political insurgency were found in gangs of smugglers and extortionists.

In recent months, the LTTE sabotaged the latest cease-fire in Sri Lanka. This precipitated a series of successful government offensives that finally captured the ruins of Jaffna in early December 1995. On October 20th, 1995 Canada issued a National Security Warrant for a prominent Tamil fund-raiser who resided in Toronto (42). On the same day, a suicide attacker was killed in a raid on a Colombo area fuel depot. He had a large amount of money on his body, in an envelope with a Toronto-area return address.

The actions of the LTTE over the years of its insurgency have been cruel. Western governments have had no choice but to consider the group a terrorist one. The Canadian High Commissioner, who has also expressed his country's disapproval of the Tigers, was rumoured to have been placed on a hit list for suicide bombers. Certainly, Tamils within Canada who oppose the insurgency tend to keep their opinions to themselves. Although they may have fled the Sri Lankan war zone, the fear has followed them here (43).

Pressures on the LTTE will increase after the fall of Jaffna. As a result, Canada and other Western countries should expect an upsurge in illegal activities by Tamil insurgents. No one should be surprised if this happens or, indeed, be surprised by anything the LTTE does. Over the past 20 years they have graphically demonstrated that there is no limit to their brutality or ruthlessness. The Tamil Tigers' political spokespeople are found in every refugee community. Their extortion rackets, narcotics traffickers and forgers are international in scope. It may be that their gunmen and suicide bombers are not far behind. Editor's Note: Although the author has been a research volunteer with the Institute for several years, we are withholding the name. This is being done for reasons of personal safety and with an eye to future research. The author works within the Tamil community in Canada, and is familiar to some leaders of the political and fund-raising arms of the Tamil Tigers in Canada.

A Chronology of the Sri Lankan Civil War:

  • 1948 - Ceylon becomes a self-governing Dominion.
  • 1956 - Communal rioting begins for two year period.
  • 1971 - The Maoist-oriented People's Liberation Front (JVP) stages an extremely violent revolt.
  • 1973 - Tamil nationalism becomes more apparent. First signs of insurgency and early days of the LTTE.  Velupillai  Prabhakaran kills a Tamil politician. Tamil smugglers bring in arms to Sri Lanka.
  • 1976 - Insurgency escalates, LTTE takes leading role as a terrorist organisation.
  • 1977 - French and German officials begin to notice welfare fraud by Tamil ``refugees''. They find that some of the profits being diverted to Sri Lankan insurgents.
  • 1980 - New routes develop for Central Asian Heroin, Tamil smugglers get involved.
  • 1981 - Sinhalese backlash to growing terrorism from LTTE and spin- off groups.
  • 1983 - LTTE adopting guerrilla tactics accelerates cycle of revolutionary terror and government repression - Jaffna ambushes, July riots and Welikade Prison Massacres.
  • 1984 - Sri Lankan Navy blockades Jaffna, LTTE guerrillas expand controlled areas. Mass arrests of Tamil heroin smugglers in Italy. They were operating on behalf of the insurgents. Swiss find 20% of heroin trade controlled by Tamil traffickers.
  • 1985 - 200 Tamil drug runners arrested world-wide.
  • 1986 - Sri Lankan airforce bombs Jaffna. LTTE sets off major bombs in Colombo. 155 Tamils land in Nova Scotia from West Germany, another operation discovered.
  • 1987 - Severe violence. Unsuccessful government offensive. India delivers food to Jaffna. Peace Accord signed in July, Indian Peace- Keeping Forces deployed. LTTE begins operations against Indian troops in October.
  • 1988 - Indian operations continue while political measures from Peace Accord implemented. Another attempt to smuggle Tamils from Germany to Canada discovered.
  • 1989 - JVP terrorism revives in response to Peace Accord. Death squads in operation. Indian troops start to withdraw, LTTE attacks rival Tamil force established by India.
  • 1990 - Government crackdown on JVP terror continues. LTTE sees last Indian troops withdraw and completes destruction of rivals. Offensive against Sri Lanka resumes, last Jaffna garrison abandoned by Government. Many atrocities by all sides.
  • 1991 - Brief cease-fire, followed by fierce fighting. India cracks down on Tamil nadu State. Rajiv Gandhi assassinated by suicide bomber. Fund Raising drive for LTTE in Canada, jailed Tamil heroin smuggler plans escape with heavy machine-gun and helicopters.
  • 1992 - Fighting continues, Sri Lankan government investigates excesses by its troops. Blockade resumes, as does siege of Jaffna.
  • 1993 - Major government offensive fails. LTTE kills President Premadasa with another body-bomb. Tamil credit card scams discovered in Canada.
  • 1994 - Peace accord ushered in by President Kumaratunga. People's Alliance Government elected after 17 years of United National Party Rule. Dutch discover Tamil refugee/heroin smuggling operation. Counterfeit passport ring arrested in Canada.
  • 1995 - LTTE resumes suicide attacks early in year. Full conflict resumes, Sri Lankan army initiates long-prepared offensive. Jaffna falls in major defeat for LTTE. Suicide bomber in Colombo has documents and money from Canada. The Mackenzie Institute.

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    1. Estimate in Globe and Mail, 21 October 1995.
    2. Population figures are drawn from various statistical abstracts of Sri Lanka.
    3. Jonathan Spencer, Sri Lanka: History and Roots of Conflict, 1990.
    4. Estimates run from 4,000 active fighters with 3,000 supporters (The International Institute of Strategic Studies, Military Balance 1994-95) to 15,000 - a figure cited in October 1995 by AP, Reuters, and other major news organizations.
    5. For further information see C.H.S. Jayewardene and H. Jayewardene; the Battle for Eelam (Ottawa; Crimcare; 1987)
    6. Kirthie Abeyskera; The Underworld of Sex, Crime and Drugs (Colombo, Lakehouse, 1991)
    7. Bruce Matthews; Sri Lanka, the Civil War and the Crisis of Immigration, Address of Professor Bruce Matthews to the Immigration Review Board, Toronoto, January 1995.
    8. Research Directorate, Immigration Review Board; Sri Lanka: Internal Flight Alternatives; Ottawa, 1992.
    9. Jayewardene and Jayewardene, page 209
    10. Research Directorate, Immigration Review Board; Sri Lanka: Internal Flight Alternatives
    11. Jayewardene and Jayawardene, page 212.
    12. Ibid, page 227
    13. Drawn from personal interviews with Canadian-Tamils.
    14. Ibid
    15. The Toronto Sun, January 25th 1993.
    16. Far Eastern Economic Review, September 12th 1991
    17 Sinha Ratnatunga; The Politics of Terrorism: The Sri Lankan Experience; Belconnen, Australia; International Fellowship for Social and Economic Development, 1988.
    18. Ratnbatunga; page 74-75
    19. Ibid, and Edgar O' Ballance; The Cyanide War: Tamil Insurrection in Sri Lanka 1973-88; London, Brassey's, 1989.
    20. Inter Service Press, January 3rd, 1990.
    21. O'Ballance, 1.
    22. Far Eastern Economic Review, September 12th 1991.
    23 Mark Steinitz, ``Insurgents, Terrorists and the Drug Trade'', The Washington Quarterly (Fall 1985)
    24 Xinhua General Overseas News Agency, April 18th, 1993
    25 Ibid, July 15thh, 1992
    26 Jayewardene and Jayewardene, pages 227-229. This contains many details of Tamil heroin smuggling activities in Europe in the mid to late 1980s.
    27 Ibid and Reuters, June 28th, 1984
    28 The Toronto Star, December 29th, 1994
    29 Reuters, December 5th, 1985
    30 US News and World Report, May 4th, 1987.
    31 Jane's Intelligence Review, December 31st, 1994
    32 Jayewardene and Jayewardene, pages 213-217.
    33 Ibid, page 232
    34 Reuters, May 29th, 1988
    35 Reuters, December 28th, 1994
    36 Jayewardene and Jayewardene
    37 The Toronto Sun, May 29th, 1994
    38 Ibid, December 11th, 1995
    39 Jayewardene and Jayewardene, page 237
    40 Toronto Sun, September 22nd, 1993
    41 Jayewardene and Jayewardene, page 230
    42 CDC News World, October 20th, 1995
    43 Interviews by the author.


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