Swiss police arrest Tamil rebels after raids

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Swiss police Tuesday raided several properties and arrested ten Tamil Tiger rebels, accusing them of involvement in a criminal group as well as money laundering, the attorney-general's office said.

"Today, the Swiss Federal Criminal Police carried out a nationally coordinated operation directed at Tamil individuals and members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"They are accused, amongst other offences, of money laundering and membership of a criminal organisation," said the attorney-general's office.

Some 23 premises were raided in ten cantons, leading to the arrests in the operation that came after a criminal probe into the Tamil Tigers' activities in Switzerland.

"During the course of the investigation, the suspicion that, for many years, the accused persons had forced their fellow countrymen of the Tamil diaspora to financially support the LTTE, was substantiated," said the attorney-general's office.

"The victims in Switzerland were put under severe pressure, threatened, or subjected to extortion," it added.

Authorities found that the accused had forced their fellow countrymen to take out large loans, and to hand over the funds. Those who refused were threatened with reprisals.

"Several million Swiss francs" were raised and transferred to Sri Lanka where they were used to finance Tamil Tiger activities, in particular, in the purchase of "war materials," said the statement.

"To disguise the true origin of the funds, they were invested in companies with connections to the LTTE conducting legal business," noted the attorney-general's office.

Colombo defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May 2009 after killing the guerilla leaders who were fighting for an ethnic Tamil homeland.

The UN estimates that up to 100,000 people died in the separatist conflict after the Tiger rebels first emerged in 1972.

The Sinhalese are the majority in Sri Lanka, with the Tamils representing the minority.

Swiss prosecutors have established a toll free line 0800 10 20 60, calling on witnesses or victims to come forward if they had information on how the Tamil Tigers operate.

© 2011 AFP

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