The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) reports the arrest of 6 men-charged with trying to obtain weapons for the Tamil Tigers- a Maoist terror group that has killed thousands. (The following is an ICE press release.)
September 29, 2006
Six charged in conspiracies to export arms and to provide material support to Tamil Tigers terrorist organization
Surface-to-Air Missiles, Grenade Launchers, Machine Guns, and other weapons involved in plots
BALTIMORE, MD -- Two complaints and an indictment were unsealed today charging six defendants with conspiracy to export arms and munitions, and three of those defendants with the additional crimes of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and money laundering, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
The defendants were arrested in Guam after traveling there to attempt to purchase night vision devices, sniper rifles, submachine guns with suppressors and grenade launchers to be used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) or customers in Indonesia. Four of the defendants were acting at the direction of senior Tamil Tigers leadership in Sri Lanka.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, “The Tamil Tigers relies upon brokers and supporters throughout the world to acquire military weaponry and launder money in its attempt to violently overthrow the elected government of Sri Lanka. They have waged a civil war in Sri Lanka which has cost tens of thousands of lives, and often use suicide bombers. We will not allow any such terrorist organization and its middlemen to use the United States as a source of supply for weapons, technology and financial resources.” Mr. Rosenstein added that the investigation is continuing.
“In today's world, keeping sophisticated U.S. weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists has never been more important. As this case demonstrates, ICE has no tolerance for international arms brokers looking to equip terrorist organizations with Stinger missiles and other advanced American weaponry. Arming a radical organization with more than 200 suicide bombings to its credit jeopardizes the security of the United States and nations around the globe," said Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
William D. Chase, Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, said, “I would like to commend all of the Agents and employees of ICE, DCIS and the FBI who worked so diligently on this highly complex investigation. It is a prime example of the results that can be achieved through cooperative law enforcement. After the events of 9/11, the American people expect no less from us. I would also like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its aggressive pursuit of this case.”
Conspiracy to Export Arms and Provide Material Support to the Tamil Tiger Terrorists; Money Laundering
The 3-count indictment returned on September 19, 2006 charges Haniffa Bin Osman, age 55, a citizen of the Republic of Singapore; Erick Wotulo, age 60, and Haji Subandi, age 69, both citizens of the Republic of Indonesia, with conspiracy to export arms and munitions, conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and money laundering. A complaint was also filed in the U.S. territory of Guam charging Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, age 36, a citizen of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, with being a member of that conspiracy as to the export of arms and munitions (Varatharasa Complaint).
The indictment and Varatharasa Complaint allege that beginning in April 2006, the defendants conspired to export state-of-the-art firearms, machine guns and ammunition, surface to air missiles, night vision goggles and other items to the Tamil Tigers. The defendants acted as brokers between manufacturers of military technology and the Tamil Tigers, requesting price quotes and negotiating the purchases.
Founded in 1976, the Tamil Tigers has advocated the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government, employing acts of violence, including suicide bombings, against both civilian and military targets. Approximately 200 such attacks have been attributed to the Tamil Tigers to date. The Tamil Tigers relies heavily upon supporters throughout the world to raise and launder money, acquire intelligence and purchase military use technology. The U.S. Department of State designated the Tamil Tigers as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in1997. As such, the Tamil Tigers cannot legally raise money or procure operational equipment in the United States.
According to the indictment, from March 2004 to April 2006 Subandi made numerous requests on behalf of Tamil Tigers representatives for price quotations and technical specifications of military items, including night vision goggles, special forces weaponry and equipment, communication devices, spare parts for helicopters and military aircraft, sonar technology and unmanned aerial vehicles. On May 3, 2006 Subandi sent undercover ICE agents a list of 53 military weapons, including sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers, that he wished to acquire for the Tamil Tigers.
A couple days later, Subandi advised undercover agents that the Tamil Tigers requested immediate pricing for numerous military equipment and that a high ranking Tamil Tigers representative requested that Subandi and an undercover agent travel to Malaysia to further discuss the arms purchases and arrange payment. On May 6, Subandi identified Osman and Wotulo as Tamil Tigers representatives who were willing to travel to a U.S. territory to meet with undercover agents. Subandi told undercover agents on May 18 that Tamil Tigers representatives in Malaysia sent Osman to Sri Lanka to report the details of the ongoing negotiations to superiors of the Tamil Tigers. On May 24, Subandi reported that Osman requested delivery of sniper rifles, submachine guns with suppressors and grenade launchers in international waters 200 km from Sri Lanka.
The indictment alleges that on May 26, 2006 Wotulo identified himself to undercover agents as a retired Indonesian Marine Corps General and discussed the proposed arms purchases. In June Wotulo advised that he and his associates were preparing a purchase order and that the chief of the Tamil Tigers requested that he and Osman travel to Baltimore to meet with undercover agents. Wotulo submitted a purchase order for nine Munitions List items totaling approximately $3 million, including sniper rifles, submachine guns with suppressors and grenade launchers.
According to the indictment, on June 16, 2006 Osman advised undercover agents that he intended to meet Wotulo in Jakarta, Indonesia to finalize arrangements for a meeting with undercover agents and to make an initial payment for the weaponry. The next day Subandi advised that the Tamil Tigers had accepted price quotes provided by undercover agents. During an initial meeting in Baltimore with undercover agents on July 26, Osman stated that the weapons were for the Tamil Tigers. The next day, Osman discussed the illegality of the arms transfer to the Tamil Tigers, provided navigational coordinates for a delivery in the Indian Ocean, and asked about serial numbers on the weapons in the event they fell into the hands of the Sri Lankan Army. Osman stated that if the first transfer of weapons was successful, the second order could be worth as much as $15 million. Osman also inquired about pricing for unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Varatharasa Complaint alleges that Osman test-fired several of the weapons in Maryland on July 28, 2006. Osman advised that Varatharasa would inspect the weaponry before it would be accepted by the Tamil Tigers.
The indictment and Varatharasa Complaint allege that on August 2 an international wire transfer of $250,000 from a bank in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was credited to an account maintained by an undercover business in Maryland as a down payment for the weapons purchase invoiced by undercover agents at approximately $900,000. According to Osman, the money was wired from a business controlled by a member of the Tamil Tigers. On August 5, Osman provided undercover agents with passports in the names of Osman and Varatharasa in preparation for their travel to the Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam to accept delivery of the weapons.
In August, 2006 Osman allegedly requested photos and technical specifications for surface to air missiles to be used against the Sri Lankan Air Force. According to the Varatharasa Complaint, Osman and Varatharasa met with undercover agents in Guam on September 25, 2006 and discussed the weapons, as well as how the weapons would be shipped from Guam and then off-loaded by Tamil Tigers members at a destination in the Indian Ocean. The next day they inspected the machine guns, sniper rifles and ammunition. They agreed to take steps to have additional funds of $450,000 transferred to an undercover bank account as further payment for the weapons.
Conspiracy to Export Arms to Indonesia
According to the complaint, Subandi stated that an individual named “Reinhard” had contacts within the Indonesian military and would help in the transaction. On September 22, 2006 Subandi met with undercover agents in Guam and discussed delivery of the night vision devices. Subandi described Rusli and Soedirdja as his financial partners who were providing the funds for the current transaction as well as future deals. The defendants met with the undercover agents the next day and discussed the delivery. They asked to examine the devices and other night vision equipment. The defendants acknowledged that the proposed transaction was illegal and discussed the safest method to smuggle the devices through the Guam airport. The defendants took possession of the night vision devices on September 24, agreeing to wire transfer additional funds.
Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to export arms. Subandi, Osman and Wotulo also face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to provide material support; and 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for money laundering. The defendants had their initial appearances today in Guam and will be transferred to federal custody in Maryland.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the investigative work performed by the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Baltimore City Police Department. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Maryland James G. Warwick, Christopher Gramiccioni and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marivic P. David for the District of Guam, who are prosecuting the case; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Eisenberg, Chief of National Security, who is supervising the case.