NEW YORK, N.Y. – A Canadian man faces up to 15 years in prison after admitting to helping funnel sophisticated military technology to a terrorist group in Sri Lanka.
Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, who earned university degrees in Waterloo, Ont., pleaded guilty Tuesday in Brooklyn, N.Y., to conspiring to provide material support to the Tamil Tigers.
Sriskandarajah and several co-conspirators — six of whom have already been convicted of terrorism offences — helped research and acquire aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software, night vision equipment and communications technology for the Tamil Tigers, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a news release announcing the plea.
Sriskandarajah used students to smuggle items in to Tamil Tiger-controlled territory in Sri Lanka between September 2004 and April 2006, the prosecutors said.
He graduated from the University of Waterloo with an electrical engineering degree a few months before he was arrested following a joint FBI-RCMP investigation. Sriskandarajah was the president of the Tamil Students’ Association at the university.
“The defendant helped the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), an organization that pioneered terrorist tactics and has killed numerous civilians in brutal terrorist attacks, obtain sophisticated military technology and equipment,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
“Claiming to fight for freedom, the LTTE instead created a climate of fear and bloodshed, systematically assassinating those who stood in the way of their terrorist goals.”
Sriskandarajah also helped launder Tamil Tiger proceeds, the U.S. prosecutors said.
The Tamil Tigers, notorious for suicide bombings and political assassinations in their fight for an independent homeland in Sri Lanka, were declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1997 and by Canada in 2006.
Sriskandarajah, who came to Canada from northern Sri Lanka as a boy, was arrested in 2006 and was ordered extradited in 2009, though he was freed on bail.
Sriskandarajah fought his extradition up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which denied his appeal in December 2012 and he was sent to the U.S. to face the charges. In the meantime, he had completed an MBA at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and started a PhD while working as a consultant.
Piratheepan Nadarajah, a man from Brampton, Ont., was extradited alongside Sriskandarajah and is charged with conspiring and attempting to acquire equipment such as heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles and missile launchers, as well as conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Tamil Tigers.
Prosecutors there allege Nadarajah and co-conspirators negotiated with an undercover FBI agent to buy and export $1 million of high-powered weapons and military equipment for the Tamil Tigers.
Media reports indicate he pleaded not guilty upon his extradition.
— Written by Allison Jones in Toronto