3RD (ADDS LTTE, GoSL RESPOSES)
Eight on LTTE-related charges in US
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 07:18 GMT]
US authorities Monday charged eight men with providing material support to the Tamil Tigers the US Justice Department said. Amongst the charges are conspiring to buy surface to air missiles for the Tamil Tigers and bribing US officials to have the LTTE removed from a list of terrorist organizations and to obtain classified intelligence, a statement said. The evidence include consensual recordings of telephone conversations and meetings with US officials, it added. The Tigers deny any involvement in the activities of the arrested individuals whilst Sri Lanka hailed the move.
"We don't have any connection with those people. It is not our way of operating," LTTE military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthiraiyan told Reuters.
Sri Lankan government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella was quoted by AFP as saying "this is tangible support in the global war against terror. They [US] not only banned the Tigers in 1997, but have been cracking down on the group."
The men arrested Monday were involved in "the procurement of military equipment, communications devices and other technology, fundraising and money laundering through charitable organizations and a myriad of other criminal activity, including conspiracy to bribe public officials," the US statement said.
The US charges say the defendants are “closely connected” with LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka, and many of them have “personally met” with LTTE leader, Velupillai Pirapaharan, and other senior leaders of the terrorist group.
The defendants -- Sathajhan Sarachandran, Sahilal Sabaratnam, Thiruthanikan Thanigasalm, Nadarasa Yograrasa, Murugesu Vinayagamoorthy, Nachimuthu Socrates, Vijayshanthar Patpanathan, and Thirukumaran Sivasubramaniam -- were being held without bail and had initial appearances before a federal judge in Brooklyn on Monday,
Socrates, described in court papers as a Tamil Tigers supporter based in North America, is a US citizen of South Indian origin. The others are said to be Canadian or Sri Lankan nationals.
In a police operation, undercover agents posing as Department of State officials were offered millions of dollars during a series of secret meetings in a New York apartment, one of the two complaints setting out the charges said.
According to the US authorities, at a meeting in July 2005, Socrates asked undercover agents whether they "could stop the United States government from sending arms to the Sri Lankan government" and "provide intelligence about this issue," the papers said.
Reached at his home in Simsbury, Connecticut, Nachimuthu Socrates' son, Aristotle Socrates, told CNN that the charges were "absurd," that his father was innocent and that he would be contesting the charges.
Socrates said his father was a businessman who had lived in Simsbury for 24 years, adding: “They've made a gross miscalculation.”