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Tamil Rebels Raise Cash by Movies, Temples, Meeting Hears

Tamil Rebels Raise Cash by Movies, Temples, Meeting Hears

Author: Jay Shankar
Publication: Bloomberg.com
URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601091&sid=axizEwcwjhHY&refer=india

Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers, who are present in 44 countries, raise funds through drug trafficking, distribution of Tamil movies, retailing international phone cards and managing Hindu temples, a conference on terrorism heard.

``The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has developed the most sophisticated infrastructure for fundraising and money transfer operations in comparison to any other terrorist group,'' Shanaka Jayasekara, of the Centre for Policing, Intelligence & Counter Terrorism at Australia's Macquarie University, told the conference in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

Talks in Geneva to end a 24-year-conflict between Sri Lanka and LTTE collapsed last year. About 12,000 LTTE militants, fighting for a separate Tamil homeland, control areas in northern Sri Lanka after being driven out of the Eastern province in July.

``When you look at terror financing you need to look at the sympathizers, the facilitators of money, the propaganda machine, the financiers, the procurement of arms and criminal activities being carried out by these organizations,'' said David Leppan, founder and chief executive officer of World-Check, an institution that provides a database of high-risk individuals.

The LTTE is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., the European Union and India. It has a ``structured presence'' with finance, procurement and intelligence units in 12 countries including Germany and Switzerland, Jayasekara said.

Sports, Culture

``They raise funds through sports events, cultural shows and criminal activity,'' he said. The LTTE uses front organizations such as the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, which was de-listed by the British Charity Commission in 2005. ``An international network run by LTTE is associated with global distribution of Tamil movies in Europe and Canada.''

The retailing of international phone cards is one of the LTTE's most profitable business ventures, he said. ``There are several cases recorded in the U.K, Canada and Australia in which strong-arm tactics were used to gain control of temple management.''

The spokesman for LTTE, Rasiah Ilanthirayan, was not immediately available for comment.

`Bullying, Threats'

The U.K. will stop illegal fundraising by the LTTE, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said in May. Security agencies are moving to ``counter the bullying, threats and acts of fraud that are used regularly to extract money from the Tamil population and others,'' he said then.

A court in Australia in May brought terrorism charges against two men for being members of the LTTE and raising funds for the group. Six Sri Lankans were convicted in Norway in April for credit card fraud, Sri Lanka's Media Center for National Security said.

The LTTE uses intimidation and violence to extort funds from Tamils living in countries such as Canada and the U.K., Human Rights Watch said in a March 2006 report. Representatives press Tamil businessmen for money and threaten to harm their families if they don't pay, it said.

As many as 600,000 Tamils have fled Sri Lanka to escape the violence, more than half of them going to the U.K. and Canada.

Advertising Income

The LTTE's Tamil Television Network has 22,000 subscribers in Europe and generates ``substantial income'' from advertising, Jayasekara said. ``The competencies acquired by the LTTE in fundraising activity will definitely be replicated by other terrorist and criminal groups.''

Only 7 percent of all terrorists operating in South Asia actually appear on international lists, World-Check's Keppan said. ``You cannot rely on the official U.S. list, Bank of England list or the UN list for terror financing. Fighting terrorist financing requires more than just a handful of official lists.''

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