|Toronto non-profit raised millions for Tamil Tigers|
|Tuesday, 19 August 2008|
Stewart Bell, National Post
August 18, 2008TORONTO -- A Toronto non-profit group wired more than $3-million to overseas bank accounts, some of them linked to the Tamil Tigers, before it was shut down by the government in June for alleged terrorist financing, says an RCMP report released yesterday.
The report, marked "Secret" but unsealed by order of a Federal Court judge, provides the first detailed look at the banking activities of the World Tamil Movement (WTM), a Toronto-based group accused of bankrolling Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers guerrillas.Most of the money, $1.9-million, went to an account at the Bumiputra Commerce Bank in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that the RCMP report says "is utilized as a vehicle to forward money to the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] from Canada."The 83-page financial report is the fruit of two years of analysis of banking records seized by Canadian anti-terrorism police who are investigating a financial network run by supporters of the Tamil Tigers that allegedly raised money in Canada to buy arms for the guerrillas."The bank records seized ... demonstrate that the World Tamil Movement has developed an elaborate machine like entity that moves throughout the Greater Toronto Area collecting funds with extreme proficiency," the police report says.
Stockwell Day, the Public Safety Minister, announced on June 16 that his government had added the WTM to Ottawa's official list of terrorist groups, alongside the likes of Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. The WTM is the first Canadian community group to be listed.The WTM has denied any involvement in terrorist fundraising and vowed to challenge the government's decision, and at a large outdoor rally in Toronto on July 5, Tamils waved Tamil Tigers flags and endorsed a statement condemning Ottawa's decision to ban the WTM.The Minister has accused the WTM of transferring money to LTTE bank accounts in Sri Lanka, but the RCMP's Feb. 1, 2008, financial report paints a more detailed picture of a complex network made up of 20 Canadian bank accounts.Five banks held the accounts: Toronto Dominion, Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank, CIBC and the National Bank of Canada.
The Canadian account holders wired money regularly to accounts in Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Tamil Tigers-controlled areas of Sri Lanka. RCMP Corporal Deanna Hill, the author of the police report, wrote that the WTM's financial set-up was "congruent with the money laundering techniques often employed by organized crime groups. "I also believe that the number of accounts alone demonstrate that the World Tamil Movement has utilized the Canadian banking system to raise funds in a manner that is best suited to financing the terrorist activities of the LTTE."The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for 25 years for an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, which has faced discrimination under the island's Sinhalese majority.
In addition to fighting a conventional guerrilla war, however, the Tigers also employ terrorist tactics, such as suicide bombings and political assassinations, which has landed them on international terrorist lists, Canada's included.The RCMP began investigating the Tamil Tigers' Canadian fundraising network in 2002, focusing on the WTM's large head office in Toronto and its smaller branch offices in Montreal and Vancouver. Police raided the Toronto and Montreal offices in 2006.Police seized letters from the Tamil Tigers leadership thanking Canada for its donations, explaining how the money had been used to purchase weapons, and asking for more. But much of the police evidence appears to have come from a study of bank accounts held by the WTM and its officers.
The Project Osaluki financial report claims the WTM's most lucrative fundraising method was a pre-authorized payment program, in which the group persuaded hundreds of its supporters to sign forms allowing money to be withdrawn from their bank accounts each month.The WTM took in up to $763,000 a year using the payment scheme. On a single day in 2005, the WTM withdrew $63,528 from 1,582 bank accounts. "It is obvious from the amounts collected with this method that the pre-authorized payment scheme is effective, timely and spares valued resources," says the RCMP report. Most of the forms had been signed in Canada but police also interviewed witnesses who said they had signed them at Tamil Tigers checkpoints in Sri Lanka. "Upon their return to Canada, these persons were visited by representatives of the World Tamil Movement to exact the collection of the monthly stipend," Cpl. Hill wrote.
In addition, the WTM made money through bake sales, car washes, newspaper sales, merchandise sales and festivals, the report says. "To date, the total amount of Canadian dollars that have been forwarded to accounts internationally from accounts controlled by the World Tamil Movement in Canada is $3,101,803.33."
(Courtesy : NationalPost )
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