BALTIMORE - A federal jury convicted Balraj Naidu, 48, a citizen of the Republic of Singapore, of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization after an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The conviction was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of ICE HSI; Special Agent in Charge A.J. Macisaac of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Washington Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Robert Craig of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service - Mid-Atlantic Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.
"This long-term undercover investigation kept sophisticated U.S. weaponry from the hands of terrorists," said Special Agent in Charge Winter. "As this investigation demonstrates, Homeland Security Investigations has no tolerance for international arms brokers looking to equip terrorist organizations with advanced American weaponry and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target individuals bent on violating U.S. export laws."
According to evidence presented at his five day trial, beginning in February 2006, Naidu and his co-conspirators attempted to purchase state of the art weaponry from China, Thailand, North Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia for the terrorist organization, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) operating within Sri Lanka, to be used to fight against Sri Lankan government forces. Several arms merchants refused to supply the Tamil Tigers with weaponry once the destination for the arms had been disclosed by Naidu and his associates. In April 2006, Naidu's Indonesian sources for weapons unwittingly introduced Naidu and his associates to an agent for an undercover business in Maryland that purported to sell military weapons.
The evidence showed that in the subsequent months, the conspirators' negotiations with the undercover agent centered on the acquisition of American made weaponry. Terms of the sale included delivery of the weapons to locations in international waters off the coast of Sri Lanka. The weaponry was to be off-loaded by the Sea Tigers, the naval branch of the Tamil Tigers. A co-conspirator, Haniffa Bin Osman, visited Baltimore in the summer of 2006, where he examined and test-fired much of the weaponry. As a result of the trip, Tamil Tiger representatives wire transferred $250,000 into the undercover business' accounts as down payment on a $900,000 weapons deal.
Approximately 28 tons of weapons and ammunition, which the conspirators believed they were purchasing, was air-lifted to the U.S. territory of Guam. On Sept. 29, 2006, after inspecting the weapons and transferring an additional $450,000 into the undercover business' accounts, co-conspirators Bin Osman, Haji Subandi, Erick Wotulo and Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa were arrested and indicted. The investigation continued and led to the indictment of Naidu and an alleged Tamil Tigers financier on charges of conspiracy to provide material support to the Tamil Tigers and related offenses.
Naidu faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake scheduled sentencing for Dec. 16, 2010 at 11 a.m.
Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 40, a citizen of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka; Haji Subandi, 73, and retired Indonesian Marine Corps General Erick Wotulo, 62, both citizens of the Republic of Indonesia; and Haniffa Bin Osman, 59, a citizen of the Republic of Singapore, pleaded guilty to their participation in the conspiracy and were sentenced to 57 months, 37 months, 30 months and 37 months in prison, respectively.
Founded in 1976, the Tamil Tigers has advocated the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government, employing acts of violence, including suicide bombings, against both civilian and military targets. Approximately 200 such attacks have been attributed to the Tamil Tigers to date. The Tamil Tigers relies heavily upon supporters throughout the world to raise and launder money, acquire intelligence and purchase military use technology. The U.S. Department of State designated the Tamil Tigers as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in1997. As such, the Tamil Tigers cannot legally raise money or procure operational equipment in the United States.