Jan 08, Bellinzona: The trial of 13 supporters of Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) charged of financing the terror outfit by extortion, fraud and other illegal means commenced on Monday at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, Switzerland.
The 13 defendants identified in court by letters are alleged to have been involved in a criminal organization from 1999 to May 2009 and supported the criminal organization funneling more than CH15 million ($15.3 million). In this context some of the defendants are accused of document falsification, money laundering, fraud and extortion.
The accused are from Switzerland, Germany and Sri Lanka. Some are former members of the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC), which represented the LTTE in Switzerland until 2009, and include its founder, his deputy and the person in charge of finances.
Between 1999 and 2009, they allegedly created a complex fundraising structure which involved coaxing members of the Tamil diaspora to obtain loans from banks. To raise higher amounts, the WTCC was accused of creating fictitious companies in the name of borrowers that issued fake salary certificates, SwissInfo reported.
The Swiss funds were transported in cash by couriers to Singapore and Dubai, eventually reaching the LTTE in Sri Lanka who allegedly used the money to purchase arms. This funding system collapsed in 2009 after the LTTE's military defeat at the hands of the Sri Lankan armed forces.
As the LTTE was never declared a terror organization in Switzerland, they will not face charges of funding a terror group, unlike cases involving Islamic State or al-Qaeda.
The whole process was set in motion in 2009 when the Office of the Attorney General launched an investigation against “unknown persons” for extortion, coercion, money laundering and organized crime.
In 2011, a vast sting operation in several Swiss cantons resulted in the arrest of several suspects who were later released within a span of two months. A year later, a delegation from the Office of the Attorney General and the Federal Office of Police travelled to Sri Lanka to interview around 15 witnesses.
The trial of the accused was originally scheduled for June 2017. However, according to the Tribune de Genčve paper external link, proceedings were delayed when the lawyer of one of the accused demanded that a bank involved in the financial transactions also be cited by the judge as one of the defendants.
However, the chamber of appeals of the Federal Criminal Court dismissed the challenge, allowing the trial to go ahead. A verdict is expected around mid-March.