LTTE financiers trial begin in Switzerland

Indo Asian News Service

Bern, Jan 9 (IANS) The trial of 13 financiers accused of funneling over 15 million Swiss francs ($15 million) to the now vanquished Sri Lankan rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), began at the Federal Criminal Court of Switzerland.

The accused are from Switzerland, Germany and Sri Lanka, the Swiss news agency SDA reported on Monday, and they were caught in a sting operation in 2011.

Between 1999 and 2009, they allegedly created a complex fundraising structure which involved coaxing members of the Tamil diaspora to obtain loans from banks, reports Xinhua news agency.

The 13 people on trial face charges of fraud, false documentation, money laundering and extortion.

The LTTE has never been declared a terror organization in Switzerland, so they will not face charges of funding a terror group.

"The Attorney General strongly suspects the LTTE fraction under investigation of having collected the money in question by means of threats and by creating a regime of fear to induce them to make the payments," a court document said on Monday.

The Swiss funds were transported in cash by couriers to Singapore and Dubai, eventually reaching the LTTE in Sri Lanka who allegedly used the money to purchase arms.

This funding system collapsed in 2009.