Subject: US charges six with shipping arms to Tamil Tigers, Indonesia
also: Six charged in US for arms export conspiracy; U.S. Newswire: Six Defendants Charged In Conspiracies to Export Arms, Provide Material Support to Foreign Terrorist Organization; 6 charged in Md. arms deal sting; TNI Denies Link with Admiral Held in U.S.
Officials say Tamil Tigers were to receive weapons
US charges six with shipping arms to Tamil Tigers, Indonesia
WASHINGTON, September 29 (AFP) -- US authorities said Friday they had charged six Asian men with conspiracy to ship arms, including submachine guns and sniper rifles, to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers and unnamed customers in Indonesia.
The men, arrested in Guam, are accused of acting as brokers between weapons manufacturers and the Tigers, which is designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US government.
According to officials, the men were snared by a sting operation in which undercover agents posed as arms brokers.
If found guilty of conspiracy to export arms and munitions and of providing material support to a foreign terrorist group, the defendants face various sentences of up to 20 years in prison and half million dollar fines.
"We will not allow any such terrorist organization and its middlemen to use the United States as a source of supply for weapons, technology and financial resources," said US Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
Those charged were named as Haniffa bin Osman, 55, of Singapore; Erick Wotulo, 60 and Haji Subandi, 69 of Indonesia; Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 36 of Sri Lanka; Reinhard Rusli, 34 and Helmi Soedirdja of Indonesia.
The indictment alleges that the first four defendents conspired to ship state of the art firearms and military equipment to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
In May, 2006, the complaint alleges that Subandi sent repeated requests to undercover customs and immigration agents for a host of weaponary, including special forces weapons, helicopter spare parts and sonar technology.
Sabandi also fired off a list of 53 military weapons, including machine guns and sniper rifles the Tigers wanted to acquire, the US Justice Department said.
Other defendants were accused of trying to set up meetings with
undercover agents and discussing how weapons would be shipped from Guam to a destination in the Indian Ocean.
In the alleged Indonesian plot, Rusli and Soedirdja were accused of acting as brokers to ship military equipment to unnamed individuals and entities in Indonesia.
The six defendants had an initial appearance in court in Guam on Friday, and will be transferred to federal custody in Baltimore, Maryland.
There has been an upsurge in violence in the decades-old ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka with more than 1,500 people killed since December in tit-for-tat killings, despite a ceasefire in place since 2002.
Six charged in US for arms export conspiracy
WASHINGTON, September 29 (Reuters) - Six men were charged in the United States for conspiring to sell arms and equipment to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels and to customers in Indonesia, U.S. officials said on Friday.
They said four of the men were charged with conspiring to export surface-to-air missiles, machine guns, ammunition and night vision goggles to the Tamil Tigers.
The men were identified as Haniffa Bin Osman, 55, a citizen of Singapore; Erick Wotulo, 60, and Haji Subandi, 69, of Indonesia and Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 36, a citizen of Sri Lanka.
Osman, Wotulo and Subandi also were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and money laundering.
The U.S. attorney's office in Maryland said in a statement the men were acting at the direction of Tamil Tigers leaders. In 1997, the United States designated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a foreign terrorist organization.
The men, who had not realized they were negotiating with undercover U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Maryland, were arrested in Guam late this week after paying a down payment for the weapons and inspecting them.
One of the suspects, Osman, met with undercover agents and test-fired several of the weapons in Maryland. The men submitted a purchase order for about $900,000 worth of arms and said a deal could be made for another order of up to $15 million of weapons, the statement said.
"The Tamil Tigers relies upon brokers and supporters throughout the world to acquire military weaponry and launder money in its attempt to violently overthrow the elected government in Sri Lanka," said U.S.
Attorney Rod Rosenstein.
"We will not allow any such terrorist organization and its middlemen to use the United States as a source of supply for weapons, technology and financial resources," he said.
In a separate conspiracy also linked to the undercover operation in Maryland, two Indonesians -- Reinhard Rusli, 34, and Helmi Soedirdja, 33 -- along with Subandi conspired to ship night vision goggles to customers in Indonesia.
All six men face a maximum sentence of five years in jail for conspiracy to export arms. Subandi, Osman and Wotulo also face up to 15 years in jail for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and 20 years in prison if convicted of money laundering.
U.S. Newswire September 29, 2006
Six Defendants Charged In Conspiracies to Export Arms, Provide Material Support to Foreign Terrorist Organization
To: National Desk
Contact: Vickie E. Leduc of the Department of Justice, 410-209- 4800
BALTIMORE, Sept. 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Two complaints and an indictment were unsealed today charging six defendants with conspiracy to export arms and munitions and three of those defendants with the additional crimes of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and money laundering. The defendants were arrested in Guam after traveling there to attempt to purchase night vision devices, sniper rifles, submachine guns with suppressors and grenade launchers to be used by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) or customers in Indonesia. Four of the defendants were acting at the direction of senior Tamil Tigers leadership in Sri Lanka, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland announced today.
The three-count indictment returned on Sept.19, charges Haniffa Bin Osman, 55, of the Republic of Singapore and Erick Wotulo, 60 and Haji Subandi, 69, of the Republic of Indonesia, with conspiracy to export arms and munitions, conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and money laundering. A complaint was also filed in the U.S. territory of Guam charging Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 36, a citizen of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, with being a member of the alleged conspiracy to export of arms and munitions (Varatharasa complaint).
"The Tamil Tigers relies upon brokers and supporters throughout the world to acquire military weaponry and launder money in its attempt to violently overthrow the elected government of Sri Lanka," said U.S.
Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "They have waged a civil war in Sri Lanka which has cost tens of thousands of lives and often use suicide bombers. We will not allow any such terrorist organization and its middlemen to use the United States as a source of supply for weapons, technology and financial resources."
"In today's world, keeping sophisticated U.S. weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists has never been more important," said Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "As this case demonstrates, ICE has no tolerance for international arms brokers looking to equip terrorist organizations with Stinger missiles and other advanced American weaponry. Arming a radical organization with more than 200 suicide bombings to its credit jeopardizes the security of the United States and nations around the globe."
Conspiracy to Export Arms and Provide Material Support to the Tamil Tiger Terrorists
The indictment and Varatharasa complaint allege that beginning in April 2006, the defendants conspired to export state-of-the- art firearms, machine guns and ammunition, surface to air missiles, night vision goggles and other items to the Tamil Tigers. The defendants acted as brokers between manufacturers of military technology and the Tamil Tigers, requesting price quotes and negotiating the purchases.
Founded in 1976, the Tamil Tigers has advocated the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government, employing acts of violence, including suicide bombings, against both civilian and military targets.
Approximately 200 such attacks have been attributed to the Tamil Tigers to date. The Tamil Tigers relies heavily upon supporters throughout the world to raise and launder money, acquire intelligence and purchase military use technology. The U.S. Department of State designated the Tamil Tigers as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. As such, the Tamil Tigers cannot legally raise money or procure operational equipment in the United States.
According to the indictment, from March 2004 to April 2006, Subandi made numerous requests on behalf of Tamil Tigers representatives for price quotations and technical specifications of military items, including night vision goggles, special forces weaponry and equipment, communication devices, spare parts for helicopters and military aircraft, sonar technology and unmanned aerial vehicles. On May 3, Subandi sent undercover ICE agents a list of 53 military weapons, including sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers, that he wished to acquire for the Tamil Tigers. A couple days later, Subandi advised undercover agents that the Tamil Tigers requested immediate pricing for numerous military equipment and that a high ranking Tamil Tigers representative requested that Subandi and an undercover agent travel to Malaysia to further discuss the arms purchases and arrange payment. On May 6, Subandi identified Osman and Wotulo as Tamil Tigers representatives who were willing to travel to a U.S. territory to meet with undercover agents. Subandi told undercover agents on May 18 that Tamil Tigers representatives in Malaysia sent Osman to Sri Lanka to report the details of the ongoing negotiations to superiors of the Tamil Tigers. On May 24, Subandi reported that Osman requested delivery of sniper rifles, submachine guns with suppressors and grenade launchers in international waters 200 km from Sri Lanka.
The indictment alleges that on May 26, Wotulo identified himself to undercover agents as a retired Indonesian Marine Corps General and discussed the proposed arms purchases. In June, Wotulo advised that he and his associates were preparing a purchase order and that the chief of the Tamil Tigers requested that he and Osman travel to Baltimore to meet with undercover agents. Wotulo submitted a purchase order for nine Munitions List items totaling approximately $3 million, including sniper rifles, submachine guns with suppressors and grenade launchers.
According to the indictment, on June 16, Osman advised undercover agents that he intended to meet Wotulo in Jakarta, Indonesia, to finalize arrangements for a meeting with undercover agents and to make an initial payment for the weaponry. The next day Subandi advised that the Tamil Tigers had accepted price quotes provided by undercover agents. During an initial meeting in Baltimore with undercover agents on July 26, Osman stated that the weapons were for the Tamil Tigers.
The next day, Osman discussed the illegality of the arms transfer to the Tamil Tigers, provided navigational coordinates for a delivery in the Indian Ocean and asked about serial numbers on the weapons in the event they fell into the hands of the Sri Lankan Army. Osman stated that if the first transfer of weapons was successful, the second order could be worth as much as $15 million. Osman also inquired about pricing for unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Varatharasa complaint alleges that Osman test-fired several of the weapons in Maryland on July 28. Osman advised that Varatharasa would inspect the weaponry before it would be accepted by the Tamil Tigers.
The indictment and Varatharasa complaint also allege that on Aug. 2 an international wire transfer of $250,000 from a bank in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was credited to an account maintained by an undercover business in Maryland as a down payment for the weapons purchase invoiced by undercover agents at approximately $900,000. According to Osman, the money was wired from a business controlled by a member of the Tamil Tigers. On Aug. 5, Osman provided undercover agents with passports in the names of Osman and Varatharasa in preparation for their travel to the Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam to accept delivery of the weapons.
In August 2006, Osman allegedly requested photos and technical specifications for surface to air missiles to be used against the Sri Lankan Air Force.
According to the Varatharasa complaint, Osman and Varatharasa met with undercover agents in Guam on Sept. 25, and discussed the weapons, as well as how the weapons would be shipped from Guam and then off-loaded by Tamil Tigers members at a destination in the Indian Ocean. The next day they inspected the machine guns, sniper rifles and ammunition.
They agreed to take steps to have additional funds of $450,000 transferred to an undercover bank account as further payment for the weapons.
Conspiracy to Export Arms to Indonesia
According to the complaint filed against Reinhard Rusli, 34 and Helmi Soedirdja, 33, both citizens of Indonesia and Subandi, the defendants conspired to ship night vision goggles to customers in Indonesia. The defendants acted as brokers, making inquiries to an undercover business in the United States on behalf of individuals and/or entities in Indonesia to acquire military equipment. In August Subandi ordered a monocular night vision device and holographic weapons sight from the undercover business for $2,950. This purchase was intended as a sample for a larger order in the future for the same or similar devices.
Subandi sent a wire transfer of $2,950 on Aug. 31, from an Indonesian bank to a bank in the United States.
According to the complaint, Subandi stated that an individual named "Reinhard" had contacts within the Indonesian military and would help in the transaction. On Sept. 22, Subandi met with undercover agents in Guam and discussed delivery of the night vision devices. Subandi described Rusli and Soedirdja as his financial partners who were providing the funds for the current transaction as well as future deals. The defendants met with the undercover agents the next day and discussed the delivery. They asked to examine the devices and other night vision equipment. The defendants acknowledged that the proposed transaction was illegal and discussed the safest method to smuggle the devices through the Guam airport. The defendants took possession of the night vision devices on Sept. 24, agreeing to wire transfer additional funds. Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to export arms. Subandi, Osman and Wotulo also face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to provide material support and 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for money laundering. The defendants had their initial appearances today in Guam and will be transferred to federal custody in Maryland.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Joyo Indonesia News Service
6 charged in Md. arms deal sting
Officials say Tamil Tigers were to receive weapons By Matthew Dolan Baltimore Sun reporter
Originally published September 30, 2006
Six South Asian arms dealers who paid undercover customs agents in Maryland hundreds of thousands of dollars to ship restricted, high-tech weapons to rebels in Sri Lanka and the Indonesian Army have been arrested by federal authorities in Guam, officials said yesterday.
The elaborate sting operation took center stage in Baltimore this summer, where federal agents put up a Singapore arms broker at a four-star Inner Harbor hotel, arranged for him to attend religious services at a mosque in Laurel and took him to a shooting range in Harford County so he could test-fire machine guns they said he was interested in illegally buying.
The ruse, authorities said, led representatives for the Tamil Tigers insurgents in Sri Lanka to deposit $700,000 with undercover agents as a down payment for millions of dollars in sniper rifles, submachine guns and grenade launchers. The arms dealers also inquired about unmanned air vehicles and buying surface-to-air missiles to shoot down Israeli-built aircraft in Sri Lanka, according to federal court papers.
Yesterday's announcement once again highlighted how attractive Maryland appears to be to arms dealers who want to buy banned state-of-the-art weapons in a state rich with defense contractors. Officials said they have stepped up enforcement, pointing out that the original tip in the case was handled by a military technology task force set up by federal and local law enforcement in 2002 to root out those who attempt to export arms illegally.
Last month, FBI agents searched the office of a Cumberland physician who is president of a Sri Lankan charitable organization suspected of funneling money to the Tamil Tigers. Officials said yesterday that the two cases are unrelated.
"It's our commitment to make sure we do everything we can not only to make sure that terrorists don't attack us in the United States, but terrorists do not find any support here in the United States for their activities overseas," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said at a news conference yesterday.
Federal prosecutors charged all six defendants - Haniffa Bin Osman, 55, of Singapore; Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 36, of Sri Lanka; and Erick Wotulo, 60, Haji Subandi, 69, Reinhard Rusli, 34, and Helmi Soedirdja, 33, of Indonesia - with conspiracy to export arms and munitions.
Osman, Wotulo and Subandi were also accused of money laundering and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
The defendants, arrested Thursday and yesterday, traveled to the American-controlled South Pacific island to purchase night vision devices, sniper rifles, submachine guns with suppressors and grenade launchers. Federal prosecutors from Maryland will ask a judge in Guam on Monday to send the defendants to Baltimore for trial. The maximum prison sentences range from five years on conspiracy to export arms to 20 years for money laundering.
The military equipment at issue, which can only be purchased in the United States by a licensed dealer for an approved customer, was to be shipped to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers, and customers in Indonesia, including the army, according to court papers and interviews with federal officials.
Mark Bastan, acting special agent in charge of the Baltimore office of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the potential arms shipment would have weighed more than 3 1/2 tons and would have filled 14 pallets on a truck.
"American-made weapons and weapons technology are the envy of the world. And they give us a competitive military edge," Bastan said, adding that the mission to combat the illegal export of military technology was among his agency's highest priorities. The customs investigators were aided by agents from the Baltimore FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Baltimore Police Department.
Investigators said they set up their operations in 2004 when an arms broker suspect contacted an undercover customs agent about acquiring arms for the Tamil Tigers. According to court papers, the broker became the link in both cases, introducing federal agents to those interested in buying weapons for the Tamil Tigers as well as the Indonesian military.
The Tamil Tigers have long advocated the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government, using suicide bombings. The State Department labeled the Tamil Tigers as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. The paramilitary organization cannot legally raise money or buy sensitive military equipment in the United States. But experts said the Sri Lankan rebels have skirted the ban by seeking out arms in other countries.
"They have a global arms procurement network" stretching from Croatia to South Africa to Singapore, said Peter Chalk, senior analyst at the Rand Corp., based in Santa Monica, Calif.
The Tamil Tigers, Chalk said, purchased its most sophisticated weapons with funds raised largely by the foreign diaspora who support their cause, he said. A truce between the rebels and government forces ended in August of this year, leading to the conflict's resumption.
From March 2004 until April this year, Subandi told the undercover agent in Maryland that he intended to sell conventional arms and munitions to the Tamil Tigers, according to court papers.
On May 24, federal prosecutors said, Subandi told agents that Osman, a representative for the Tamil Tigers, wanted grenade launchers and other weapons delivered to a spot in international waters off Sri Lanka's coast.
Wotulo, who identified himself two days later to undercover agents as a retired Indonesian Marine Corps general, entered the negotiations to submit a purchase order for nine restricted items totaling about $3 million, authorities said.
But it was Osman who traveled to Baltimore in late July and stayed at the Harborplace Renaissance Hotel. There, he told agents that the arms Wotulo requested were for the Tamil Tigers, and Osman knew the delivery would be illegal, according to court papers. Osman told agents that a subsequent order could be worth as much as $15 million, prosecutors said.
On July 28, Osman test-fired several of the weapons, including machine guns, at a Harford County police range, according to the indictment.
"After hours or in low-light conditions, it wouldn't stick out with a strong government or police feel," Havre de Grace police spokesman Maj. John Van Gilder.
The indictment says that on Aug. 2, undercover agents received $250,000 from a bank in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as a down payment for the weapons purchase, expected to total $900,000.
Osman and Varatharasa met with undercover agents in Guam to inspect the weapons on Monday, federal prosecutors said. They were arrested days later.
The Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Indonesian Military (TNI) has denied any links Sunday with a retired admiral arrested in the United States last week for allegedly conspiring to sell arms and equipment to Sri Lanka rebels and Indonesian customers.
TNI spokesman Rear Admiral M. Sunarto Sjoekronoputro said Erick Wotulo, 60, who was arrested in U.S. territory Guam, along with an Indonesian and two foreigners, had acted on his own.
"I did not know what was his motivation and for what purpose that he bought the arms. Certainly, the TNI would not buy illegal weapons," he told the detikcom news portal Sunday.
Sunarto said the TNI would investigate to find out more about Erick's status as a retired officer.
The two Indonesians, Erick and Haji Subandi, 69, were among six men charged in the U.S. for conspiring to sell arms and equipment to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels and to customers in Indonesia.
American officials said Friday the Indonesians -- along with Singaporean Haniffa bin Osman, 55, and Sri Lankan Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 36 -- were charged with conspiring to export surface-to-air missiles, machine guns, ammunition and night vision goggles to Tamil Tiger rebels.
Arrested in Guam late this week, Osman, Erick and Subandi were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and money laundering.
In a separate conspiracy also linked to the undercover operation in Maryland, two Indonesians -- Reinhard Rusli, 34, and Helmi Soedirdja, 33 -- along with Subandi conspired to ship night vision goggles to customers in Indonesia.
Foreign Affairs Ministry director of Indonesian citizens protection Ferry Adamhar told detikcom the Indonesian Consulate General in Los Angeles had contacted the U.S. officials who made the arrests.
A team from Los Angeles, he said, would fly to Guam on Monday to confirm the arrest and to seek more details.
"We will make sure the four Indonesians retain their legal rights, like access to lawyers. If they have no money (to pay for the lawyers), we will look for pro bono legal assistance," Ferry said.
Ferry said his office had also contacted the four men's families by telephone.
He said the Indonesian government would not interfere in U.S legal process and would not ask the government there to deport them.
"They are being legally processed. Let the legal system in the country proceed," he said.