NIA begins probe into fake passports racket with LTTE connections
The Central agencies and the elite ‘Q’ branch of the Tamil Nadu police are on high alert after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) used the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against three people in a fake passport case which was registered in the state in October 2021 by the ‘Q’ branch.
All arrests made by the state police regarding fake passports have alerted the central agencies. An investigation by Tamil Nadu police revealed the involvement of active Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres behind the fake passport racket.
Acting on tip-offs from the central agencies, the NIA took over the case in January 2022 and registered a case under the UAPA against the offenders as they were specifically deployed to withdraw unutilized funds of the LTTE and to try and revive the movement in Tamil Nadu.
A few former operatives of the banned terror outfit based out of Europe were trying to withdraw the unutilized funds of the LTTE from several accounts in India.
The Tamil Nadu police ‘Q’ branch arrested Letchumanan Mary Francisco in October 2021. Another Sri Lankan national was arrested by Tamil Nadu police in Madurai airport while boarding a Sri Lankan Airlines flight with a fake Indian passport. Meanwhile, another man was arrested at Trichy airport after his Spanish passport was found to be fake.
The arrested woman, Mary is a Sri Lankan national settled in Canada. She was used by the LTTE operatives from Denmark and Switzerland to withdraw the money from a Mumbai-based bank using fake identities. The police had arrested her after a tip-off from central intelligence agencies with a fake Indian passport at Chennai airport.
Mary had told the intelligence agencies that she was staying at Anna Nagar for the past two years and had obtained a PAN card, Aadhar card, Voter Identity Card, and Indian passport with the help of a few agents. She told the interrogators that crores of rupees in unutilized funds were lying in several banks. The modus operandi was to withdraw these funds using people like her with fake identities and to transfer this money to other accounts in India and abroad under the cover of some shell companies.
The NIA has registered a case after receiving intelligence inputs regarding former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) trying to raise funds to support the activities of the now-defunct movement in Tamil Nadu.
Several organizations with a Tamil identity including NGOs were under the watch of the central agencies after they tried to conduct webinars and public programmes against the Chinese investments in Sri Lanka.
Sources in the central agencies said that these organizations could possibly provide a cover to get ground support for Tamil nationalism in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu at the expense of the Chinese expansion. The construction of a new port at Hambantota in Sri Lanka with Chinese funding was becoming a matter of concern for Indian agencies.
Prior to this, a former intelligence operative of the LTTE, Satkunam alias Sabesan (47), was arrested by the NIA in October 2021 for alleged involvement in the smuggling of drugs and arms from Pakistan. The Tamil Nadu ‘Q’ branch police had said that Satkunam had a close relationship with the Sri Lankan don, Ankola Lokka who died in Coimbatore where he was staying undercover.
The NIA and the ‘Q’ branch had after interrogating Sabesan and his aides Chinnasuresh and Soundararajan found that the proceeds from the sale of drugs from Pakistan to Sri Lanka were routed to India through a hawala network operated by one Jayaprakash, a Tamil person based in Bengaluru. He was also arrested. The accused had informed the investigating agencies that the funds were used to finance LTTE activities in India.
With the LTTE setting up its network using hawala transactions and drug money, and with some NGOs and political organizations acting as a front, a revival of Tamil nationalism is being planned in Tamil Nadu with the LTTE as the key focal point.
Sources in the Indian agencies said that there would be a strict crackdown on the sympathizers and supporters of the defunct LTTE and other Tamil national movements if they try to create an atmosphere of support for the cause on Indian soil against the Sri Lankan government.
[With Inputs from IANS]
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