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TN Police bust gang raising funds for LTTE

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The Tamil Nadu Police have blown the lid off an international network of former members or sympathisers of the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) allegedly involved in raising funds for reviving the movement, said a news report published by The Hindu.

The Hindu report filed from Chennai said: A Sri Lankan national, who was detained by the immigration authorities in Chennai recently and handed over to the ‘Q’ Branch-CID of the State police, revealed how the accused persons operating from European countries deployed operatives to draw huge money from dormant accounts using fake identities/documents, police sources told The Hindu on Thursday.

Mary Francisco, 51, a native of Sri Lanka, moved to Canada many years ago and became a permanent resident there. She was intercepted at the Chennai Airport as she was preparing to board a plane to Mumbai. The suspect was found to possess an Indian passport obtained with fake documents.

She told investigators of the State intelligence how huge money lying unclaimed in bank accounts were targeted by two former members or sympathisers of the LTTE based in Germany and Switzerland. The duo that was part of a larger network of sympathisers operating out of India, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia would facilitate withdrawal of the money by deploying agents with fake documents. The money would be transferred to different bank accounts in India and abroad in the names of companies or individuals and used for works of the “movement”, the sources quoted her as saying.

Acting on the instructions of the two accused persons, Ms. Francisco said she came to India a couple of years ago and moved into a rented premises at Anna Nagar in Chennai. With the help of the rental agreement and domestic LPG connection papers, she managed to open accounts in different banks. With the help of some agents, she obtained a PAN card, Aadhaar card, voter identity card and Indian passport, the sources said.

Francisco alleged she was connected to a few others and assigned the task of withdrawing several crores of rupees lying in a joint account held at Indian Overseas Bank’s Fort Branch in Mumbai. The two accused persons, whom she said were living in Denmark and Switzerland, had claimed that the money was raised for funding the activities of the LTTE, the sources said.

The woman and her two accomplices accessed the details of the original account- holders and forged documents to impersonate their identities. She even managed to activate the mobile phone linked to the account in her name. However, intelligence officials who were tracking the movement of the suspects alerted the immigration authorities and arrested Ms. Francisco when she was about to leave for Mumbai, the sources said, adding that the amount withdrawn illegally from various accounts by various persons who were part of the racket over the years was under investigation.

After the investigating agency found prima facie evidence to invoke provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the National Investigation Agency, which has been investigating a similar case, took over the probe. In the first week of October 2021, the NIA arrested a senior intelligence operative, Satkunam alias Sabesan, 47, of the LTTE in Chennai.

It was alleged that the suspect, also a Sri Lankan national, had transferred a large amount of money to former members or sympathisers to revive the movement. The agency was tracking Satkunam on the basis of inputs that he was involved in the trafficking of arms and drugs from Pakistan to Sri Lanka and used the proceeds of the crime to fund former members of the organisation.



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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI

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Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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Modi government moves to ‘solve’ Katchatheevu issue

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The Narendra Modi government is mulling restoring the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Katchatheevu, an uninhabited island of 285 acres, sandwiched between India and Sri Lanka in the Palk Bay, with the BJP hoping the move could lift its political fortunes in the southern state.The government will push Sri Lanka to implement “in letter and spirit” the 1974 agreement reached between Indira Gandhi and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, then prime ministers of India and Sri Lanka, on the island.This will have to be done by withdrawing the “Executive Instructions” issued in 1976 without questioning Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” over Katchatheevu, sources aware of the internal discussions in the BJP told the Indian newspaper, Deccan Herald.

Sources added that the discussions were “ongoing” at “various levels” including reaching out to Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka. The recent visit of TN BJP chief K Annamalai to Sri Lanka is also part of the outreach. Many feel the instructions issued in 1976 “superseded the provisions of the legally valid” pact between India and Sri Lanka, thus making Katchatheevu a subject of dispute in the Palk Bay.While the 1974 agreement gave away Katchatheevu, which was part of the territory ruled by the Rajah of Ramanathapuram, to Sri Lanka, the 1976 pact drew the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and Bay of Bengal.

“We cannot disturb the agreement signed in 1974. We are now finding ways and means to implement the agreement in letter and spirit. All we plan is to ask Sri Lanka to invoke Article 6 of the Katchatheevu pact. If Sri Lanka agrees, the issue can be sorted through Exchange of Letters between foreign secretaries of both countries,” a source in the know said.Another source said the time is “ripe” to push forward on the issue. “With fast-changing geopolitical situation in the region, we believe Sri Lanka will slowly come around and accept the rights of our fishermen,” the source said.

“The opinion within the party is that time is ripe to push this cause, with Sri Lanka beginning to realise that India can always be relied upon, given PM Ranil (Wickremesinghe) is pro-India.”

Articles 5 and 6 of the 1974 agreement categorically assert the right to access of the Indian fishermen and pilgrims to Katchatheevu and state that the “vessels of Sri Lanka and India will enjoy in each other’s waters such rights as they have traditionally enjoyed therein”.

However, fishermen from India were prohibited from fishing in the Sri Lankan territorial waters around Katchatheevu in 1976 following the signing of an agreement on the maritime boundary. The battle for fish in the Palk Bay has often ended in Indian fishermen being attacked by Sri Lankan Navy for “transgressing” into their waters.The BJP, which is yet to make major inroads in Tamil Nadu, feels a “solution” to the long-standing issue will give the party the much-needed momentum ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and provide a chance to get into the Tamil psyche. Political analysts feel that it might also allow the BJP to needle the DMK and the Congress by pointing out that it has restored the rights “surrendered by them,” to Tamil fishermen

Senior journalist and Lanka expert R Bhagwan Singh said: “If BJP succeeds in its efforts, it will certainly help the saffron party in the coming elections.”

But a source said the move will “take time”. “We don’t want to rush and create an impression we are forcing Sri Lanka. We will take it slow. We will take every stakeholder into confidence and reach an amicable settlement with Sri Lanka. All we want to do is restore traditional rights of our fishermen,” the source said.CM Stalin also raised the issue at an event on Thursday, telling Modi that this is the “right time” to retrieve Katchatheevu.

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