Seven years after he was arrested by the RCMP in Toronto, a Canadian man has pleaded guilty in New York to conspiring to buy anti-aircraft missiles for Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.
Piratheepan Nadarajah, 37, is to be sentenced on Jan. 31 after the U.S. District Court accepted his guilty pleas on two counts related to his work as an arms supplier for the separatist rebels.
Three other Canadians are already serving sentences of at least 25 years for their roles in the same procurement network that was caught trying to buy $1-million worth of missiles in Long Island, N.Y.
They had also negotiated to buy 500 AK-47 assault rifles, unaware they had walked into a sting operation and that the FBI was recording their conversations with an undercover informant who was posing as an arms dealer.
“Nadarajah and his associates attempted to acquire these weapons at the direction of senior LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] leadership in Sri Lanka,” the FBI said in a statement. “The anti-aircraft weapons were to be used by the LTTE to shoot down Kfir aircraft used by the Sri Lankan military.”
Nadarajah’s 2006 arrest followed a joint RCMP-FBI investigation into North American supporters — many of them Canadians of Sri Lankan origin — who were helping finance and rearm the Tamil rebels.
Also known as “Nada,” Nadarajah was born in Sri Lanka and later lived in Brampton, Ont. He has been called the technical expert of the group. The U.S. said he was a Tamil Tigers “operative.”
Unlike his co-conspirators, who were arrested in New York, Nadarajah was taken into custody in Toronto. The U.S. sought his extradition but he fought the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled against him. He was sent to Brooklyn last December to stand trial.
Another Canadian, Suresh Sriskandarajah, also known as Waterloo Suresh, is to be sentenced Oct. 28 after he pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide support to the Tigers. U.S. prosecutors have asked for a 15-year prison sentence. His co-accused has already returned to Toronto after serving out his time in the U.S.
During their quarter-century battle for independence, the Tamil Tigers relied heavily on supporters in Canada for money and weapons. The fighting ended in 2009, when government forces defeated the rebels.
Since then, there have been widespread calls for an independent investigation into allegations that war crimes were committed during the final stage of the conflict. Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he would not attend the upcoming Commonwealth meeting in Colombo, calling Sri Lanka’s lack of accountability for human rights abuses “unacceptable.” (Source: National Post)