Money laundering
Bust intricate modus operandi which included extortion and money laundering
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The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has indicted 13 people associated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The indictment alleges that the accused provided financial support to the LTTE through a sophisticated micro-credit system from a bank in Zurich. The monies thus raised total CHF 15 million ($15.2 million) and the 13 accused come from Germany, Switzerland and Sri Lanka. The funds were used to buy weapons.

 The charges include supporting and/or being members of a criminal organisation, fraud, false  certification and money laundering. Tamil Tiger leaders in Switzerland “devised and implemented a systematic and rapid method for obtaining money from the Tamil diaspora in Switzerland,” the OAG said in a statement.

 “As the investigations carried out by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland with the support of the federal police show, substantial sums of money were obtained from the diaspora community using couriers and loans,” the office added.

 At the time of the offences, the LTTE was acting through a Swiss offshoot known as the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC). This in turn acted through representatives in various Swiss cantons. As a result of the continuing civil war in Si Lanka, financial needs increased considerably, the OAG said in a statement. Pressed for time, LTTE leaders in Switzerland devised and implemented a “systematic and rapid” method of obtaining money from the Tamil diaspora in the Alpine nation. During the entire process, the LTTE remained an anonymous participant in the process by acting through the WTCC.

The 13 individuals are no longer in custody but can be contacted when necessary. “It is up to the Federal Criminal Court (FCC) to check first if the filed indictment are approved and then to fix the trial date,” Anthony Brovarone, spokesperson for the OAG told The News Minute.

Modus Operandi

The mechanism essentially involved inducing members of the Tamil diaspora in Switzerland who apparently had no links to each other to enter into micro-credit contracts in their own names but in a fiduciary capacity and then pass on the funds to the WTCC. This two-step process gave the WTTC complete control over the process of granting each credit at the cost of the borrowers.

People seeking loans were first subjected to an economic analysis and potential borrowers were identified. People then entered into fiduciary micro-credit contracts for sums of up to CHF 100,000 with loans being paid to the WTCC. Exorbitant loan repayments were made, the OAG said, using monthly donations and by taking out additional microcredits.

In order to obtain the credit from a bank in Zurich, two financial intermediaries used forged salary statements thus deceiving the banks involved about the credit worthiness of the borrowers. The loans obtained were transported in cash by couriers to Singapore and Dubai. Sums of CHF 1 million moved abroad each month to buy weapons. The LTTE’s funding system collapsed in 2009 following their military defeat – the diaspora stopped the payments

At the height of civil war, Switzerland served as a base for fund raising, training of mercenaries including kamikaze training according to sources. There was frequent talk about suitcase planes which literally resembled a piece of luggage but could be assembled into a deadly kamikaze contraption in minutes. The Sri Lankan community is also very active in Geneva, home to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) charged with tracking human rights abuses worldwide.

The OAG told The News Minute the origins of this week’s indictment date back to 2009 when Swiss authorities were tipped off the LTTE was forcing the Tamil diaspora to raise funds. In 2011, the Swiss Federal Criminal Police carried out a nationally coordinated operation directed at Tamil individuals and members of the LTTE in ten cantons and 23 premises. That search and seize operation established that victims in Switzerland were put under severe pressure, threatened and even subjected to extortion. For example, those who refused to borrow money were threatened with reprisals. Another method used to launder the money was to invest them in companies with connections to LTTE but which were conducting legal businesses.

It may be recalled that in 2006, the European Union (EU) declared the LTTE to be a terrorist organisation. To finance the civil war, the LTTE leaned heavily on the large Tamil diaspora in Europe. In Switzerland, they had established a sound and effective pyramid structure to generate funds, the OAG had said in 2011. The criminal offences attributed to these persons took place within this structure. Already in 2009, in similar proceedings, convictions were secured in France. At that time, Swiss authorities had set up a special toll free line for people who were either victims of capable of offering information.

At the time of writing it is not known the FCC will begin trials.