What is your experience with the LTTE?
13 people are accused of transferring more than 15 million Swiss francs to the Sri Lankan separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The process before the Swiss Federal Criminal Court begins today.
Swissinfo.ch's India specialist covers a wide range of topics, from bilateral relations to Bollywood. He is also familiar with Swiss watchmaking and has a preference for French-speaking Switzerland.
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The defendants come from Switzerland, Germany and Sri Lanka. Some of them are former members of the World Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC), which represented the Tamil Tiger Liberation Front in Switzerland until 2009, including the committee's founder, his deputy and the financial officer.
Between 1999 and 2009, they allegedly created a complex fundraising structure that encouraged members of the Tamil diaspora to borrow from banks. In order to be able to take out higher loans, the WTCC is said to have founded fictitious companies on behalf of the borrowers and issued forged wage statements.
The 13 accused have to answer for fraud, false certification, money laundering and extortion. Because the LTTE in Switzerland, unlike IS or Al-Qaeda, was never classified as a terrorist organization, the accused are not charged with financing a terrorist organization, but with supporting a criminal organization.
SRF, Tagesschau from January 8th, 2018
Struggle for freedom or criminal act?
"The federal prosecutor's office strongly suspects that the LTTE faction under investigation raised the money through threats to members of the Tamil community, or at least built a regime of fear to get them to make the payments," according to an earlier court ruling from External Link .
Couriers brought the Swiss funds in cash to Singapore and Dubai; later the money went to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, who allegedly used it to buy weapons. This funding system collapsed in 2009 after the Sri Lankan government forces defeated the Tamil Tigers militarily.
"I don't think the 13 people should be charged because the LTTE fought for the freedom and self-determination of the Tamils, which is not a crime. It takes two parties for a war, and Switzerland should do the war crimes of the Sri Lankan government troops as well investigate, "Anna Annor, President of the Swiss People's Council of the Eelam Tamils, told swissinfo.ch on Thursday.
The process was initiated in 2009 when the Federal Prosecutor's Office initiated an investigation into unknown persons for extortion, coercion, money laundering and organized crime.
In 2011, a broad undercover investigation in several Swiss cantons led to the arrest of several people, who, however, were released within two months. A year later, a delegation from the Federal Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Office of Police traveled to Sri Lanka to question around 15 witnesses.
"About 80% of the Tamils living in Switzerland made payments to the LTTE to support them in the fight against the genocide. That does not make the Tamils supporters of terrorism," says Kuruparan Kurusamy, former president of the Swiss People's Council of Eelam -Tamils.
135 credits in one name
The trial was originally scheduled for June 2017. However, the proceedings were delayed when one of the defendants' attorney requested that a bank involved in the financial transactions also be listed as a defendant. According to Kurusamy, the bank in question was the major Swiss bank Credit Suisse. He claims she granted 135 loans to a Sri Lankan citizen residing in Germany. The daily Le Temps reports that Bank Now, a subsidiary of Credit Suisse Group, has granted loans to 182 people at an interest rate of 12%.
The Board of Appeal of the Federal Criminal Court rejected the defendant's complaint, so that the trial could continue. A verdict is expected in mid-March.
Around 50,000 people from Sri Lanka live in Switzerland, mainly Tamils, who fled the 30-year civil war. The war ended in 2009. Many Sri Lankan refugees applied for Swiss citizenship, so that in 2016 just over 28,000 people with Sri Lankan citizenship were still living in Switzerland. In 2016, the Swiss government announced that it would apply stricter rules in future to the recognition of Sri Lankan citizens as refugees.
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