The Sri Lanka government on Monday said as part of its efforts to secure assets of the LTTE outside the island nation, its Navy has seized ‘Princess Christina’ — said to be the large LTTE arms ship — and escorted it to the Colombo Navy ship yard this morning.
A statement by the Defence Ministry said, “The ship is 89m in length and had been utilised for arms smuggling and human trafficking. Under directions of the Defence Secretary Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the assets that belonged to the LTTE are now being acquired by the country.”
It further quoted the Secretary Defence as saying that all the (LTTE) assets being acquired will be utilised for the development of the country considering the fact that they belong to the people of the country.
No details were immediately available as to where actually the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) seized the ship. The Ministry said the ship was seized following information provided by the LTTE chief arms procurer Kumaran Pathmanthan alias KP who is in the custody of the Sri Lankan authorities.
KP is being questioned on the LTTE’s connections, especially influential Western connections on its payroll, its leading donors, the group’s earnings from drugs and guns, and its intricate business empire.
A few weeks ago, Sri Lanka Minister and Defence Spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella disclosed at a news conference here on Tuesday that the government was engaged in the process of collecting information and intelligence on LTTE assets in different parts of the globe with the objective of acquiring them for ‘national development’.
The Minister had disclosed that the government has sought the advice of the Attorney General’s office to take up the subject of possible freeze of nearly 600 bank accounts belonging to Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP), LTTE chief Velupillai’s successor.
Asked about the estimated value of money in these accounts, the Minister had said the government was still in the process of making an assessment. “Getting information about bank account details of individuals and groups from some of the countries is not easy. There are secrecy laws and clauses involved. At the moment, we have no idea of the amount stashed away in these accounts.”
Valuable information from KP
The Minister said the information on the accounts is on the basis of questioning and interrogation of KP. The arrest and shifting of KP to Sri Lanka was considered a major setback to the overseas operations of the LTTE and those working for an alternative leadership to Mr. Prabakaran. Since August, the Sri Lankan authorities have subjected KP to sustained questioning and believe to have gained valuable information.
For instance, on October 24, the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry had said the LTTE’s arms procurer and Prabakaran’s successor had revealed during interrogation that Sri Lanka-born U.S. business tycoon Raja Rajaratnam had been a leading contributor of money to the LTTE. Mr. Rajaratnam (52) was among six persons arrested on October 17 on charges of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
The former chief arms procurer of the LTTE was appointed by Velupillai Prabakaran as head of the LTTE’s newly created International relations department in January this year. After Prabakaran’s death in May this year, KP donned the mantle of the LTTE leadership despite opposition from some of the LTTE overseas factions.
KP was a key LTTE functionary during the Prabakaran era and was believed to be one of the chief fund raisers as well as arms procurer for the LTTE. It is against this backdrop that the disclosure of 600 odd foreign bank accounts of KP acquires significance.
KP, known as Tharmalingam Shanmugam Kumaran in India, was proclaimed as a wanted offender through INTERPOL and wanted INTERPOL to apprehend KP for interrogation regarding charges like criminal conspiracy, arms smuggling, violation of the Indian terrorist act, breach of Indian Explosives Act and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.