Police raid Montreal offices of Tamil group
Monday, April 17, 2006
Police have raided the offices of a Tamil organization in Montreal as part of an investigation into terrorist financing, the RCMP said yesterday.
A counter-terrorism team made up of RCMP, Montreal police and Surete du Quebec officers searched the office of the World Tamil Movement at 4160 Van Horne Ave. in the Cote des Neiges district.
The search warrant said police are investigating four alleged criminal offences, all related to financing and facilitating terrorist activity.
"There were no arrests and it was mainly documents and information that were seized from the location," said Cpl. Sylvain L'Heureux, a RCMP spokesperson.
The raid occurred on the night of April 12 - just two days after Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced the Tamil Tigers had been placed on Canada's list of banned terrorist organizations.
The listing means it is now illegal to knowingly assist the Tamil Tigers, a violent Sri Lankan separatist group also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE.
But the timing of the police raid wasn't related to Day's announcement, L'Heureux said.
"It's just an investigation that's ongoing."
A man who answered the telephone at the World Tamil Movement office yesterday confirmed the police raid but said he didn't know the details.
The WTM said it supports the Tamil Tigers' quest for an independent Tamil homeland, but it denies any involvement in financing the armed group.
But police and intelligence reports have referred to the WTM as a "front organization," and immigration authorities are deporting the former co-ordinator of the group, Manickavasagam Suresh, alleging he was sending money to the Tigers.
The WTM, which has offices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, was also one of four "fronts" named in a secret Privy Council Office memo sent to then-prime minister Jean Chretien in 2000.
"In a limited number of cases, fundraising in support of violent foreign struggles takes place in Canada through the cover of ethnic, religious or community-based associations and groups, lobbying and even criminal activity," the report said.
"Front groups operating in Canada include the Jerusalem Fund for Human Services (Hamas Front), the World Tamil Movement (Tamil Tigers Front), the Canadian Kurdish Information Network (Kurdistan Workers Party Front), and the Babbar Khalsa (a Sikh extremist front)."
Few details of the police investigation were available.
The warrant said the alleged crimes occurred between February 2003 and April 2006.
The sections of the Criminal Code that police allege were violated involve collecting property for terrorism, contributing to acts of terrorism and knowingly facilitating terrorism.
The Tamil Tigers have been collecting money in Canada since the 1980s, primarily through front organizations, according to intelligence reports.
Human Rights Watch reported in February that supporters of the Tigers had been going door-to-door in Toronto's Tamil neighbourhoods and demanding cash to finance a "final war" for independence. Those who refused to pay were subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats and extortion, the report said, adding the aggressive fundraising drive had left some Canadian Tamils "living in fear."
Although the Tigers have carried out more than 160 suicide bombings and assassinated dozens of political opponents, the former Liberal government resisted labelling them a terrorist group under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
But last Monday, the Conservatives did what Day said was "long overdue" and added the group to Canada's official list of terrorists.
The decision was welcomed by some Sri Lankan and TamilCanadian groups, but the Canadian Tamil Congress said it was "deeply shocked and saddened."
A ceasefire between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government has been falling apart in recent months, with a spike of killings in recent days.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006
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